Increase the Success of Building Material Magazine Ads

Increase the Success of Building Material Magazine Ads

Start “scaling-up” your marketing with product renderings and animations

Ask a building product marketer about their advertising. They’ll usually picture an ad in a trade journal’s printed or digital magazine. They’re hoping to catch their prospect’s eye while flipping through pages to get to the next feature article.

It’s an expensive way to get customers. Think of the money you pay to make it happen:

  • Photography – You’ve got the photographer’s time, any models, studio time rental, and your own staff’s time.
  • Copy – You have the cost of a professional copywriter to get the words right.
  • Design – You’ll need a graphic designer to assemble the copy and images to look great for the final layout.
  • Ad space cost – Depending on the trade journal, for a ½-page ad, you’ll pay $3,000 to $11,000 per ad.
  • Ad agency – If you hired an ad agency to help put all these pieces together – Guess what? They get paid, too.

And that’s all for a single ad. You might run the same ad several times, but you’ll pay the ad space cost each time. It adds up fast.

So why do some companies go with this as their knee-jerk reaction to marketing their products and leave it at that?

It’s not their fault. It’s just how a lot of marketers were programmed to think… “Let’s get our brand in front of as many eyeballs as we can and we’re golden…”

But I’ll bet you’re better than that. Read on for some ideas to help you expand and scale your advertising efforts.

The most important question you must ask

The very bottom line of any marketing action you take – online or offline – is you have to answer “Yes” to the following question:

“Does it advance the making of the sale?”

This is paraphrased from direct response marketing legend, Dan Kennedy. He was talking about when to use humor in a sales presentation. But it’s a simple question you can and should use to stop throwing your budget into the marketing money pit.

Before you run another ad, put it to this test. Does it have the elements to move your ideal prospects in the right direction toward buying or specifying your product?

You’ve surely been in a conversation about a clever or funny Super Bowl ad, but nobody remembers what product the ad was selling.

This is a prime example of an ad that doesn’t pass the test. It’s not moving anybody toward the sale of anything. (And that company paid a LOT more for the TV ad than your trade journal ad costs…)

So, if you’re game, let’s use this question to…  

Scale-up your marketing

My goal isn’t to convince you to quit advertising in trade journals. Quite the opposite. I’m showing you how you can do it better.

In another post,  we talked about how you can leverage high-quality images and video to synergize your marketing efforts. If you haven’t read that one and seen the examples of how some of my clients are doing it right, go ahead and read it.

I’ll wait for you…

…You’re back? Good. I hope those examples gave you some ideas for your marketing.

Now let’s look at how you can use those images and videos to scale up your other marketing efforts. Specifically, how you can combine the power of high-quality product renderings and animations to supercharge your offline advertising.  

The perilous path of offline-to-online…

In most cases, your ultimate goal for your magazine ads should be to give your prospect a compelling reason to go from the magazine to your website. Or your social media pages. Or to send you an email. That’s what I’m calling offline-to-online.

Let’s say you drew a simple cartoon strip of the ideal progression from your prospect (an architect for our example) finding your building product ad in a magazine. It might go something like this:

But we both know about 1,001 things could go wrong on that path.

He might…

  • Get sidetracked between seeing your ad and typing in your web address…
  • Get distracted by something else on your site and never come back to the original product he was looking for…
  • Forget to include your product in his specifications…
  • Let the contractor substitute an inferior product without a fight…
  • Have to deal with an installer screw-up and blame the product…
  • Or 996 other little distractions or bumps in the road…

We can’t cover all 1,001 fixes in this post. But we can look at how you can create better ads to create a “greased slide” to get him from Step 1 to 6 as smoothly as possible?

Creating ads that work for you…

Flip through any trade journal and you still see so many companies missing the mark of an effective ad.

Most ads won’t get a prospect engaged enough to make it through the “gauntlet of distractions” to even reach Step 2 or 3 of your comic strip above.

Most ads have an eye-catching image of some kind, along with the company or product name taking up most of the ad space. But you’ll usually get lost figuring out what the image has to do with their product. And how it can benefit you.

Then, if you’re lucky, the ad includes a web address. But guess where it takes you?

The company’s home page. And that home page is full of distractions to lead you astray.

So how can you make your ad better than the rest? Let’s start with that image…

If you’ve been reading any of my other posts, or are at all familiar with my work, you should already have some ideas on how to improve the image.

Don’t just throw up a pretty picture of a completed building and hope your prospect can figure out what role your product played. You need to help them bridge the gap with an image that makes it crystal clear how your product will help make their building a success.

With more effective images, you’ll not only grab your prospect’s attention. You’ll also tell him so much more about your product through these visuals.

Keep moving forward…

Now let’s look at the copy in your ad. This is where you need to give your prospect a reason to take that next step. To get him to make the leap from offline-to-online, you need to offer something he wants.

That’s where your product animations can come in. He’s seen the image of your product. He’s beginning to see how it could help his project.

The next logical step in convincing him could be a video demonstrating your product in action. Tell him why he’ll want to take that next step.

Use your limited copy to help him see how your product’s benefits are a good fit. Then let him know where he can see more…

This is where so many ads go wrong…

Don’t give him a web address that sends him to your home page. Hoping he finds your video. He will get lost or confused. (Remember we’re creating a greased slide.)

Give him a custom URL that takes him directly to that video. No other stops along the way. No distractions.

If you’ve got a video at that URL that helps him fill in the gaps, you’re well on your way to leading him through the path to specifying your product.

What you should do next

Today, you’ve seen how most magazine and trade journal ads are not nearly as effective as they could be. You also learned the crucial question you should ask of every step you’re taking in your marketing strategy.

You also saw a few simple adjustments you can make to your ads. Tweaks to help guide your prospects down the path to knowing, liking and trusting you and your product.

So what do you think? Does all that sound do-able? It really is a few simple tweaks that can make a huge difference.

As always, if there’s anything you need help with in the way of high-quality visualizations — let’s talk. We can get you set up with installation animations and 3D renderings to help scale up all of your marketing efforts.

About the Author :

Jason Yana has 2 decades of experience in architectural technology, 3d graphics and construction marketing. This unique combination provides highly-effective visual representations of building products that fuel marketing and support efforts.

His award-winning body of work informs, inspires and educates building product customers.

Start with WHY to Find Your Building Material Marketing Message

Start with WHY to Find Your Building Material Marketing Message


It’s a sunny Saturday morning and I’m stuck here at my computer looking for something to help take one of the things off my “honey-do” list. And it just happened again!

Why does it keep happening over-and-over? Like I’m trapped in some lame version of that Bill Murray movie, “Groundhog Day.”

Here I am, looking at another home repair product’s website, and I have to work hard to figure out what the product actually does and why I should pick it over all the other options out there.

In some cases, they’ll have a beautiful, high-resolution image with a clever phrase or tagline. (Or maybe just their logo…) But I can’t figure out what the heck they’re trying to sell me. In others, there’s just a bunch of technical information pounding me over the head with facts and features about their product. But they never get around to telling me why their product is better.

I’m like most guys, and if it takes me too long to figure out the next step, I’ll just find an easier thing on my list and move on. But not this time. No sir!

I saw this as an opportunity to dig in and pull out a marketing lesson or two. The idea actually grew from a TedTalk my wife recently shared with me…

Start With Why

In 2009, Simon Sinek gave what’s become one of the most popular TedTalks of all time called, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” It had almost 30 million views, last I checked.

In his 18-minute presentation, Sinek used the ideas and principles taken from his book, “Start with Why.”

The big thing that stuck with me from the talk is what Sinek called the “golden circle.” He used this simple visual to explain the fundamental differences between the “Apple” companies of the world and everyone else.

Basically, he simplified how we think, act and communicate to three words, or layers: Why, How, and What.

  • WHY – This is your business’ core belief. Why you do what you do.

  • HOW – This is how your company fulfills that core belief.

  • WHAT – This is what you do to fulfill the core belief.

We all know what we do and can talk about it all day. It’s the tangible things. The basic features and benefits we can all recite from memory and list on our technical data sheets.

Some companies know how they do what they do. They often use these to explain how they’re different or better than the other guys.

But most companies or individuals find it hard to clearly articulate why they do what they do.

Sinek’s point was that most companies start with the much easier what and how they do business. But rarely, if ever, do they think or talk about their why.

That’s what sets the “Apples” of the world apart. They start with why and then move to the how and what they do.

To help boost your connection with your target audience let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways, and use the “Start With Why” framework to look at a few building product websites through that lens. We’ll focus on window manufacturers to compare a few similar products

3 Key Takeaways for Building Product Marketing

1. Use “Why” to put a framework around your product

As Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” Think back to why you got into this business in the first place – about why your company does what it does. This helps make sure your entire team is aligned with your core belief(s).

And when I say “team,” in our industry that can be very broad term. It can mean the sales and production staff for you company, but can also extend to your sales reps, suppliers and even the architects or designers who might become your “product evangelists.”

If your whole team understands your “why” it’s a whole lot easier for them to pass on “how” and “what” you and your product do.

Let’s take a look at our first example website to see how they do on this one…

Andersen Windows


Here’s the screenshot of Andersen’s Home page (desktop and mobile) on the day I wrote this:

I thought we were onto something here when I saw the simple quote, “The brand trusted by more builders than any others.” Followed by a button to click saying, “SEE WHY.”

When you click on the button, the next page is a nicely designed listing of their features and benefits. Energy-efficiency. Experience & Innovation. Beauty. Performance. Service. Sustainability. Giving Back.

All great things, but you’ll end up finding very similar lists of “how” and “what” on the other sites you visit. But, here on the surface, I couldn’t find the “why” behind their company or their product lines.

So, I decided to dig a little deeper…

By going off their product site to the Andersen Corporation website, I looked a bit at their company history. There you can see they originated the “two bundle” method of construction to help streamline the window construction process on the job site.

Later, they developed the first completely assembled window unit. You can keep clicking through to see their many other innovation and a little bit of the “why” behind each of those advancements.

To truly embrace the “Start With Why” principles, they could certainly look at folding more of these things back into their up-front marketing efforts. Andersen has a lot of why’s out there, but it’s not something we shouldn’t have to dig for.

2. Pull the “Why” into your marketing

As we saw in the Andersen example, there are always opportunities to find the “why.” The challenge is to find ways to effectively pull that forward and incorporate that into the visuals and copy you use in your marketing.

Our next example website is…

JELD-WEN Windows and Doors


Screenshot of JELD-WEN’s Home page on the day I wrote this:

At first blush, the JELD-WEN site is just showing me a catalog of their products with lists of features for each of the products. Nothing too compelling or exciting to connect with me or make me pick them over any other window out there.

Again, I have to do some digging to find a hint at their “why.”

On the “About Us” page of their site, you can find their value and mission statements, and a bit about their history. But even those aren’t getting to that elusive “why” that I want to see to help me connect with them and make them my go-to resource for windows.

Not much more I can say about JELD-WEN, other than they could do more self-exploration to help find their why and bring it up to the surface.


3. Redefine your target market

Depending on how long your company has been around, your target market can change over time. It’s sometimes based on the trends in the market, or changes in your own products and services.

By going back to the “Start With Why” principles, you may find you’ve lost your way a bit. That’s OK. We all need to re-examine things from time to time. As the quote, attributed to Socrates, says, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

If you do choose to go through the process of finding and starting with your “why,” it can help you clarify WHO it is you want to serve. This can go a long way in helping you clarify your marketing messages.

For our final example website, we’ll look at:

Marvin Windows


On their Home page, Marvin has a great video background that loops through a variety of images. I can tell they cater to the residential market and it looks like they have products that fit with traditional and more modern designs.

On the sections below the video loop, they go into several of the standard
“why work with us” statements we’ve seen on other manufacturer sites. But they are starting to bake in more of their “why” into these statements.

For example, when they talk about their unmatched service, they say, “Building and keeping relationships is as important to us as the unwavering quality of our product…” That’s a pretty good why that I can identify with. Relationships are important to me, too.

For their commitment to quality, they say, “We set high standards for ourselves so we can be sure that every single product we make for you is built to last…” When you use the phrase “so we can” that’s giving me your reason why.

Could their reasons be made stronger and clearer? Absolutely. There’s always room for improvement. The point of examining these examples is to get you started down the road to examining your own messages and those of your competition.


Final words…

If you don’t define your why, nobody cares what your product is or how it works.

They might select your products based on price, but you won’t develop that loyal following we’d all like to depend on for our business. If you want to quiet the competition and get your customers and teams on board with you, you need to inspire them and connect with them.

To do that, you need to start with your why.

About the Author :

Jason Yana has 2 decades of experience in architectural technology, 3d graphics and construction marketing. This unique combination provides highly-effective visual representations of building products that fuel marketing and support efforts.

His award-winning body of work informs, inspires and educates building product customers.

3 Easy Ways to Display Videos at Building Material Trade Shows

3 Easy Ways to Display Videos at Building Material Trade Shows

If you have come to this article, you’ve likely done a lot of hard work creating a video for your tradeshow booth.   You’re likely at the same point that many of my clients have arrived at :

“How do I put my video or videos on a loop and have them run at my booth without a thousand headaches and a ton of expense?”

Of course, there are many options here that are going to get this job done, but I would like to give you three good ones here with some steps to remove some of those headaches.

The three best options :

  1. Using nothing but a Smart LED TV from Best Buy
  2. Using your iPAD
  3. Using a tv, monitor or projector with your laptop

Part 1 – Using a Smart TV

I like this option the best because the screen is big and sharp and you only need one piece of equipment.   You will need to find a tv that has a usb input and can play videos this way.   You also want the tv to have a repeat option so it will just loop your video over and over all day long without you doing a thing.

Step 1 – Get a tv that can do this job for you, and test it before you go to the darn show.

Here is an example of a TV you could pick up at any best buy and it will do this job for you :

Click on the image and you can head right over and buy one

If you’re not getting this exact tv or you are using one you already have, get the manual or look up the manual online and check what types of video files the thing can play.

Step 2 – Find out what type of video file you need.

There are all kinds of video files,  you don’t need to know them all, just know that there will be a list in the manual telling you what types your tv can accept, but I guarantee if you have a mp4 file that plays on your macintosh, it will probably work on the tv.   But check the list or send the list to your video geek or the nearest millennial and they will handle it for you.

Here is what that list looks like for our Samsung tv we picked out if you’re interested, but really just tell your millennial you want a .mp4 file with h264 codec and you’ll be golden.

Also if you’re serious about how the video appears, make sure it is High Definition.   720p HD is ok, 1080p is what you really want.  It’s what Dancing With the Stars and Monday Night Football are broadcast in.

Step 3 – get your video file onto a USB stick.

Get a good USB thumbdrive, relax they are extremely affordable so get one that has plenty of space on it.  they look like this :

typical usb flash drive

Next, plug it into your computer and save your video file to it.

Simple eject it, and plug it into the back of the tv.

Step 4. Get the Video Playing on a Loop

Once you have the USB drive plugged in select source on your remote

Choose USB device from the menu

you will now see a My Content Menu which shows all the photos videos and music files on your USB drive

Choose the file you want to play and then click the repeat button to have it play over and over all day long.

One note, turn the tv off before yanking the drive out of the back so you don’t damage the files on the USB Drive.




Part 2 – Using your iPad

An iPad can be a good solution when space is at a premium or if you use them in conjunction with a cool kiosk stand like this one :

Here are the steps.

Generally, the hope here is that you are the kind of iPad user who actually syncs the ipad with your computer.  Many people don’t do this anymore at all, but it’s not that big of a deal and it basically plugs into your mac and throws things from your computer onto the ipad, like music, photos, movies, etc.

If you’re not one of these people, email me and I’ll explain a pretty decent way to get your video on there without all this.

  1. Import the video footage into iPhoto on your computer.
  2. Put the movie(s) in its own album in iPhoto and call the album with an appropriate name that will be visible in the sideshow when it starts playing at the conference.
  3. Plug your iPad into your computer and sync your photos to it. Make sure that the new album is selected and the “Include videos” box is checked.
  4. Launch the Photos app on your iPad.
  5. Tap into the new album you’d like to use as the slideshow
  6. Tap on the video you’d like to start the slideshow on to open it.
  7. Tap on the Share button in the bottom left hand corner (up arrow icon).
  8. Tap on Slideshow in the share menu.
  9. For iOS 9 and maybe iOS 8 tap the video and click Options. On iOS 7 it’s in the device Settings > Photos and Camera > Slideshow > Repeat.
  10. Turn Repeat to On
  11. Set Music to None
  12. Set Theme to Push
  13. Now when you play your album as a slideshow it will loop forever – remember to bring your power cord.



Part 3 – Using your Laptop

This is a bit “old school”  but it works.

If you are using a mac laptop

  • Plug it into the monitor, projector, or tv you plan to use via HDMI.
  • Get the display in mirror mode so the external display shows exactly what you see on your screen.
  • Open your video in Quicktime
  • Click View Menu > Loop
  • Click View Menu > fill screen
  • Make sure your laptop isn’t set to go to sleep when idle and you’re done

If you are using a windows laptop, install QuickTime and then do the same thing as above



About the Author :

Jason Yana has 2 decades of experience in architectural technology, 3d graphics and construction marketing. This unique combination provides highly-effective visual representations of building products that fuel marketing and support efforts.

His award-winning body of work informs, inspires and educates building product customers.

Using explainer videos to market building materials more effectively

Using explainer videos to market building materials more effectively

One of the prime visual mediums for enticing customers is through the use of an explainer video. Explainer videos are like elevator pitches for your product. Think of how you can capture your potential client with one of these videos and then you have their attention for much longer and more in-depth presentations. There is a lot of research about the effectiveness and popularity of video for sales and marketing out there. But why and how are videos useful in marketing?

A video in itself possesses certain qualities to be useful. Make this video longer and more informative and these qualities become even more critical. Marketing videos should really be cost-effective, concise, clean, compelling, and creative. Because when you have these elements, your customers crave your product more. Videos give you an opportunity to express the values of the brand: pushing the limit, precision, expertise of your product.

1. Cost-effective

This is important because you don’t want to break the bank. But you also want professional and quality work to bring your design or product to the forefront.

Consider these eye-opening video marketing stats, according to Brainshark:

  • Pop a video into an email = boost opening rates by 20%
  • Over half of marketing pros consider video the best Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Pop the word video into the email subject line =  click rates jump 65%
  • 65% of video viewers dedicate themselves to watching at least 3/4 of a video

2. Concise

Being concise is more of choosing your words and images carefully, rather than just using less words and being quick. Choose quality over quantity. Answer your viewer’s questions and teach them something too! Videos are effective because they build relationships: “When your target audience finds the content you’re producing genuinely helpful, you’ve begun earning their trust. And once you’ve started that process, you’ve created a strong link to your business or brand.”

3. Clean

Creating a clean video is important to marketing. A clean video means it is more likely to get reviewed and reviewed again, and passed on to others. Clean videos increase purchase rates too. 64% more viewers opt to make a purchase when a video is seen online. Videos in e-mail also increase click-through rate too. YouTube, e-mail, landing pages, and more compel viewers to take steps toward acquiring the product. And this is all because they were able to see it in detail and in action in a video.

4. Compelling

This is where your content will really stand out. Incorporating 3D graphics, showing a product from the inside out, having photorealistic animation, and just showing rather than telling (i.e. explicitly demonstrating the how, why and what of your product) make the difference. If you produce content that offer customers value, they will return. If you build it (and make it look really cool), they will come…and come back again.

5. Creative 

This has to be the most important reason that videos do well in the marketing arena. Be different in the way that you present your product and it will stand out. A modern clean approach lets potential customers see the product they want to buy before they buy and not merely in a boring flat image. Movement, design and depth will allow you to offer customers more dramatic visual results.

6. Increase Your Brand’s Awareness

Using videos to sell your product updates your image and brand. Research shows that consumers remember the videos they see (after all 74% of all internet traffic in 2017 will be video); and a majority use them in their decision to purchase. Videos are effective. They increase sales and build an awareness for a company. Not all videos entice consumers though. Consider creating videos that are professional-looking, concise and call to action the viewer to take advantage of this opportunity.

About the Author :

Jason Yana has 2 decades of experience in architectural technology, 3d graphics and construction marketing. This unique combination provides highly-effective visual representations of building products that fuel marketing and support efforts.

His award-winning body of work informs, inspires and educates building product customers.

The Astounding Way the Brain Works in Building Material Marketing

The Astounding Way the Brain Works in Building Material Marketing

When considering how the visual impressions influence buyers, it is important to understand the brain and the psychology of the mind. We all kind of understand that attractive things get our attention and that we desire beauty over the ugly, but why? Understanding the science behind this universal truth will help you market your products more effectively. Let’s dive into how the brain takes in data.

The Connection

The first thing that occurs when we see a product (or anything for that matter) is the brain makes a decision as to how and IF it will connect with this item in a meaningful way. Obviously, the goal is to have people connect with your product, because ultimately a connection is saying “this is attractive” (in some way). So just how does the brain connect? The brain takes in visual stimuli and digests or decodes it, then determines how relevant it is.

The Decision-Making

When marketing your goods or services, your goal is to bring the client to the point of a decision – a positive decision to purchase what you are selling. The interesting news about the workings of the brain is that after decoding your product, it then decides if it should send the information to the decision-making portion of the brain. In other words, the brain is divided into three parts with each serving a different function. When concrete products are first introduced to the brain, they are either rejected as irrelevant or sent on to the part of the brain that is responsible for decisions. If the product you are selling never reaches this point, then there is little hope you will make a sale. That first impression is key!

The First Impression

There are certain factors about your product and the presentation of it that will cause the brain to send it over to the decision section. Once you have it in that “department” of the brain, the chances of a sale are much greater. Some of these factors include:

  • Pursues the visual.
  • Takes notice of the unusual.
  • Feeds on contrasts in either visual images, words, or a combination of the two.
  • Desires quick summarized information.

About the Author :

Jason Yana has 2 decades of experience in architectural technology, 3d graphics and construction marketing. This unique combination provides highly-effective visual representations of building products that fuel marketing and support efforts.

His award-winning body of work informs, inspires and educates building product customers.

A Sneak Peek into an Architect’s Head to Sell More Building Materials – Part 2

A Sneak Peek into an Architect’s Head to Sell More Building Materials – Part 2

The key to getting in front of the architect’s product decisions is to understand his process


Glad to see you’re back to hear the rest of the story on the architect’s decision-making process.

In Part 1, you heard from an architect on the first half of his decision-making process. He’s determining whether he’ll use a particular building product to help him solve a problem. Those first four parts are…

  • Discovering the need

  • Researching my options (Phase I)

  • Initiating contact with a sales rep

  • Researching my options (Phase II)

If you need to review those steps, you can read them here.

Otherwise, if you’re ready to hear the rest of the story, I’ll let our architect friend take over from here

Selling the Idea

Thanks again, Jason. And welcome back to you, the reader. I hope you’re finding a lot of value in what we’re sharing here. Let’s get on with the story…

As you’ll recall, the product I’m deciding on is an exterior fascia panel.

So, picking up where we left off, I’ve just finished doing Phase II of my research. Now I’m ready to try to sell my proposed building product to my co-workers, the client, and the contractor.

Each of these “selling” approaches requires different criteria I need to work with. So, ideally, you (the product manufacturer) have provided me with the tools I’ll need to make my case.

To give you a better idea of what I mean, I’ll briefly describe each of these three groups and the key points I need to hit with each of them. Read carefully, and you’ll see several opportunities to jump in and help sell your product through the architect.


My co-workers could be a variety of people, depending on the project team structure. If I’m one of several architects on the team, I may need to sell the other architects on a variety of points:

  • Aesthetics – Is it going to complement the rest of the design?

  • Constructability – Will it be easily incorporated into the construction process? Or will it be a potential call back during construction — because it requires some special considerations to install that will add unforeseen costs and time delays?

  • Available details & specs – Can the project team easily add this new product to our detailing and specification efforts?

  • Cost – Am I proposing a “Cadillac” product on an economy-budgeted project?

  • Code implications – Does the product meet all of the local building codes?

For our example here, I need to sell my proposed idea first to the exterior detail team to make sure they agree it’s the best solution. Then I need to sell the idea to the project manager, who then needs to sell it to the client.

So it’s critical that I have all of these sell points in-line and have the needed documentation that I can hand off to the PM for him to make the sale to other key decision-makers on the project.

On some projects, it can be a very twisty path to get to that final acceptance. And it’s often just one discussion point of a long meeting. So chances are good it might not even get proper consideration.

You need to make sure your information and key benefits of your building material or product is very clear and easily-digestible. (Hint: Architects are visual creatures. We love a clear diagram or image that tells the story quickly…)


The Client

The client will have a different set of concerns that need to be met and addressed.

He or she might be concerned about the following:

  • Aesthetics – Does this material project the right image for our building?

  • Cost – Is it within our project budget? Is this an upgrade that we’ll have to give up something else to get it? Is it worth it?

  • Maintenance – Is it going to create a maintenance headache for us? Will we have to repaint or re-caulk every year?

  • Energy Efficiency – If applicable, is it going to save us money in the long run?

While the client does want a building that looks great and projects an impressive image, he has a broader view to keep in mind and others he may need to sell the idea to. So once again, I’ll need to make sure I have the proper information and materials to sell him on these key points.

Or, as I mentioned above, I may be handing off the materials to another team member to sell the idea to the client.

The Contractor

From an architect’s point-of-view, we tend to see the contractor’s concerns as more short-sighted. They’re more concerned about RIGHT NOW. It’s not always the case, like when it’s a contractor or construction manager who has an on-going relationship with the client. But here are the key concerns I see when a contractor is considering a new product for a job:

  • Cost – What’s the initial product cost and/or installed cost? What’s the overall impact on the bottom line of the construction costs?

  • Constructability – Can it actually be constructed as detailed? Is it compatible with the adjacent materials or will I need to consider additional materials or structure to make it work?

  • Installation – How easily is it installed? Does it require a specialty contractor or can general labor get it done?

  • Reliability – Am I going to get callbacks in a couple months? Will there be warranty issues? Or will this product perform as promised?

Once again, even though this perspective is different, it’s just as valid. If you provide me with the backup information, case studies and testimonial of how well it worked, it makes it easier for me to get your product into the project. Especially if those stories are coming from other contractors.

Jason’s Key Takeaway:

I think it’s pretty clear what you should take away on this one.

Are you making it easy for an architect to access these key pieces of information to help them make the sale on your behalf? Are you providing your sales people and distributors with these pieces to make it easy for them to hand it off to the architect?

This “hand-off” concept is something to think about for a moment. It’s one thing to get my attention with your building material or product, but how do I make the idea of your product portable and easy to hand-off to someone else?

If you have provided a pdf, a brochure, a video or a very well designed product page on your web site, now I have something to hand-off to the rest of the decision makers.

If I said ” hey go to this website and then click here and click there and see this little product here in the corner – that’s the one I want to use” . . .

How would that compare to:

“hey watch this video and you’ll see why i love this product”

This also goes back to my previous posts about providing clear product details and installation animations.

If you’re not providing these resources, you should be. Sooner than later…

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Specifying & Detailing …

Once everybody is on-board with your building material or product, I need to go to work getting it folded into the project documents. So now I’m looking for an “easy button” to help make that as quick and painless as possible.

Are specifications available?

Do you have easy access to different spec formats I can use as a starting point to make the spec writing as easy as possible?

In most cases, the architect won’t use the manufacturer’s spec verbatim. In many project types, it’s important to keep the spec as non-proprietary as possible.

Also, depending on the firm, the specs might be written by the project architect or they may be handed off to a spec writer. So that’s a good reason to provide a spec that has some guidance notes included to help clarify when different options might be more appropriate. Including any key differentiating features your product has that competitors don’t. Otherwise, they could be overlooked or omitted in the final spec that goes out.

Are details available?

Do you have typical details that can be modified for different project conditions? Do you provide a service to help with custom details?

These are key selling points to make sure you don’t lose me after I’ve gotten to this point. If it looks like it will be too much work to get your product worked into my tight deadline, all the upfront research and time might be thrown out the window to get the project out.

So, make sure it’s crystal clear what resources are available to me. And don’t be afraid to reach out shortly after our initial conversations to remind me of those resources and see if there’s anything you can send me to help. Offer to take a quick look at a snapshot PDF of my details and offer any advice.

Jason’s Key Takeaways:

Yeah – you know what you need to do here.

You need to make sure you’ve got these resources – specifications and details – updated and available on your website. Maybe they’re openly available, or maybe they require a name and email to access.

Either way, make sure they aren’t buried and hard to find. In some cases, this may be the first thing an architect is looking for and if they can’t find them they’ll leave your website and go to the next manufacturer.

Also, make sure you’re highlighting any free services you provide to help the architect get your product integrated into their project.

Defending your Specs…

The design team and I have to defend our product and system choices. We have to defend your product as the best choice for the job. So make sure you’ve prepared me for the fight…

During bidding – Most jobs have an opportunity for substitution requests to be made during bidding. If the substituting manufacturer has followed the proper procedure (which is often NOT the case), they have a good chance of being considered.

If they provide a good argument why their product should be considered and can offer additional benefits, they’ll get a thumbs up.

This is where your upfront education efforts are critical. If you’ve done a good job of highlighting why your product is the best choice, then I can make a better judgement when the time comes. If there’s something your product offers that your competitors don’t, then I can make the argument on your behalf during this phase.

During construction – Even if you make it through the bidding process, there’s still an opportunity on some projects for a competitor to kick you out. If they can prove their product can save the owner money, or if they’re willing to pay any additional costs associated with using their product, they’ll get a look.

It’s hard to win the pricing game. It’s like a race to the bottom where nobody wins. So, you’ve got to have presented your product on value for the money to truly win this game.

In other words, if you have demonstrated that your product will be maintenance-free, and more durable than your competitor. Or the quicker, cleaner installation saves the contractor a month. The client may be willing to pay the additional money to get those added values.

But again, you have to have explicitly educated me (and the contractor, if possible), so these facts can be considered before final approval of a substitution.


Jason’s Key Takeaway:

Education is key. You’ve got to educate the design and construction teams.

The more clear and obvious you can make the benefits and value your product provides, the better your chances of keeping your foothold in the project.

And that’s the goal: to have your product installed on the project and have it perform as promised, so you can continue to win.

Assessing the Performance …

Once construction is complete, I’m going to assess how well your product was liked by the contractor, as well as how well it’s performing for the client.

This assessment is key to deciding if I continue to recommend and specify your product in the future.

Reports from the contractor/installerIf I can get these reports, they usually happen toward the end of construction.

Unless I’m on a site visit when the install is actually happening — then I’ll ask the installer how they like working with the product. They’re usually quick to say if it’s a pain or if it’s a dream to work with.

Most times, I don’t get the opportunity to talk directly with the installer, so I’ll depend on the general contractor’s input about your product’s performance. If he had headaches to deal with in terms of coordination with other trades or delays due to the delivery or installation process… I’ll usually hear about it.

To be honest, unless it’s a new product I specifically ask about, I’ll only get the negative reports. So, that’s a good reason to follow up with me during construction. Put a bug in my ear to remember to ask the contractor how your product is working out.

Otherwise, I’m likely to forget about it until it’s too late and everybody has moved on to the next project.

Reports from building owner/manager Ideally, I’ll have an opportunity to do a one-year check-in with a client to see how the building is performing.

Again, this check-in doesn’t always happen, but it’s the best way to make this assessment of good performance. Of course, if there’s a poor performance, I’ll hear about it whether I check-in or not.

These one-year reviews usually revolve around how the layout of the interior spaces are working. But if I make a specific attempt to talk with the facility manager and maintenance folks, that’s where I’ll get the straight shooting about your product’s performance.

There are also situations where I’ll be working on a large campus with a lot of buildings being built or remodeled. In these cases, it’s especially important to make sure your product performs well (and you remind me of that fact).

I’ve been in several meetings where a university client says they won’t allow a certain manufacturer’s product on their campus because they had a failure 10 years ago. A lot can change in that time, but once that opinion is formed it can stick for a long time.

And if I don’t have the most current information on your product or have a good track record of using your product to share with that client, then I’ll usually just go with a product they’re OK with. And this might even bleed into other projects, where I’ll remember their issues and decide against your product.

Jason’s Key Takeaway:

This is a tough one… but VERY critical.

You need to dance around that fine line of not over-communicating with the architect, but helping remind them to keep an ear to the ground on how your product is performing.

Plus, you want to stay in touch just in case there’s any negative fallout from the current or past projects you need to address.

Marketing legend, Dan Kennedy, says it best that you need to position yourself as the “invited guest,” not the “annoying pest.”

In other words, all that upfront education we’ve talked about can continue to serve you at this point. If you’ve properly positioned yourself, the architect has come to value you as a resource and an expert on your product line.

Now, if you reach out with more information to serve as a guide (and reminder) on how to assess your product’s performance, the architect will welcome the reminder. And is more likely to share what the results.

Adding to Best Practices …

Once I’ve established your product did what was promised and will be a good choice for future projects, I’ll add it to our firm’s best practices. This can take a couple different forms…

Typical DetailsBefore a product can earn its place in a firm’s library of typical details, it has to have been used successfully on a project. Once it has proven itself, it can have the honors.

But a couple things have to happen first (Hint: here’s where you come in) …

First, I need to remember to take the associated details and share them with the rest of the office. That might be placing them in our designated folder for details. Or it might be submitting them to the Revit content team to incorporate into the standard project templates.

If you follow up with me after a successful project, you can offer to send the final project-specific shop drawings or as-built details to help make that process simpler on my end.

Master SpecsMany firms will maintain a set of master specifications that they will use as a model for projects. Maybe you can offer to review my master specification and offer some ways to update it to current codes and standards and, of course, make sure your product is included as the base manufacturer.

As you most likely know, the master specification will rarely be proprietary, so keep that in mind as you provide this follow up. If you get too heavy-handed and try to make it too specific to your product, I may just toss your recommendations and stick with the more general master we’ve been using.

So tread carefully with this strategy.

Share with co-workersThis last one is good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth around the office. We’re constantly asking each other for product recommendations. So if your product is applicable to a co-worker’s project and it’s fresh on my mind, I’ll tell them to use your product. And share my details and specs you helped me develop and perfect.

Many offices will also do internal presentations sharing lessons learned and successful project experiences. Maybe you offer to come in a present something with me. Or, you could share any project photos you might have taken in the field, so I can include them in my presentation.

Be creative and find those simple little ways to help make me shine with my colleagues.

Jason’s Key Takeaway:

There you have it straight from the architect’s mouth…

Help them look like the hero. Make them shine.

And find those reasons to stay in touch after a successful project. Stay top-of-mind. Don’t wait for the next AIA tradeshow to hope they stop by…

Alright, I hope you’ve learned a lot from the architect’s point of view.

Go back and re-read Part I & II again and come up with an action list of things to do. There’s a ton of ideas there, and you should be able to find something to do at whatever stage you are with your prospects.

And go ahead and congratulate yourself if you’re already doing some of these things.

As always, if there’s anything you need help with in the way of high-quality visualizations — let’s talk. We can get you set up with installation animations and 3D renderings to help tell the story of your building material or building product and sell it to your next project’s decision makers.

About the Author :

Jason Yana has 2 decades of experience in architectural technology, 3d graphics and construction marketing. This unique combination provides highly-effective visual representations of building products that fuel marketing and support efforts.

His award-winning body of work informs, inspires and educates building product customers.