Marketing to Architects Symposium – Recap

Approximately 100 sales and marketing executives from 32 national building-products manufacturers recently gathered at the NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis for Miller Brooks’ 2010 Marketing to the Architect and Design Community Symposium. In its second year, the event once again provided an excellent opportunity for these sales and marketing executives to “engage, interact and connect with architects and designers.”

Through speaker presentations and a panel discussion, attendees learned about new trends and technology currently impacting the architecture and design industry, as well as best practices for cultivating stronger, more mutually beneficial relationships between manufacturers and design professionals.

Presentations from industry leaders

Three speakers, who know this industry firsthand, shared their insight:

Claire Conroy, editorial director of residential architect, Custom Home and Custom Home Outdoors magazines:

  • The objectives of custom home designers often differ from those of custom homebuilders. Combining this knowledge with understanding and respect will build trust and result in more successful projects.
  • She encouraged marketing representatives to work toward a better understanding of their custom home architect customers and their specific needs. The result? You’ll build a more solid relationship.
  • Relationships breed business. “If you’re just coming to their office to sell to them, they will see right through you.”

Keynote speaker Rex Miller, founding member of the Mindshift Consortium — a building and design industry think tank — and author of The Commercial Real Estate Revolution presented “Mindshift: A New Way To Look at a New Problem”:

  • Today’s digital culture is being driven by technologically savvy young minds. Miller encouraged audience members to embrace the ideas of younger employees and incorporate the new trends – such as social media and Building Information Modeling (BIM) – into their companies’ business models.
  • Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a growing trend intended to minimize the waste of time, materials and labor. Project teams organize themselves before the project, selecting teammates based on talent and ability to cooperate, instead of low bids. The architects, designers and contractors work together as a unit — not as individuals — and share risks together. Project design and coordination using BIM is the tool that makes this operational style possible. “BIM helps the trades to interact better on projects and produce better results.”

And Alex Oliver, CEO and founding partner of Los Angeles digital media firm Igloo Studios:

  • Some monumental digital design tools have been developed in the past 30 years, from AutoCAD® to Revit® and Google® SketchUp, over the past 30 years.
  • Now? 3-D digital modeling software is seeing huge growth. For example, approximately 1.3 million unique, new applications of Google SketchUp pop up every week online.
  • Each tool has its merits for designers, and they should use the tool that is the best fit for the project. “There’s more than one software solution, and there’s more than one set of tools,” Oliver said. “Users of Revit don’t just use Revit. Users of Google SketchUp don’t just use Google SketchUp. There’s interaction between all of these programs.”

An interactive panel discussion

Moderated by Conroy and featuring Miller and Oliver, the panel included a diverse group of architects and interior designers:

  • Sara Busby, CKD, owner of Sara Busby Design in Traverse City, Mich.
  • Lynda A. Anderson, IIDA, LEED AP, associate principal at RATIO Architects in Indianapolis
  • John Senhauser, FAIA, owner of John Senhauser Architects in Cincinnati
  • Thomas A. Cheesman, AIA, principal at RATIO Architects

Panel members fielded questions from audience members, delivered both by text message and microphone, about issues affecting the relationships between architects and the marketing and sales departments of manufacturing companies. What issues generated the most discussion?

  • Reaction to New Digital Technology — many of today’s veteran architects have embraced digital modeling but still sometimes prefer to receive physical product samples from manufacturers. This provides them something tangible to present to clients.
  • Trade shows — Trade shows are still important to architects, as they allow them to see new products up-close and speak with manufacturer representatives face-to-face.
  • Architect-Manufacturer Relationships – Manufacturer representatives should get to know their architect customers better in order to help them do their jobs and educate them on the uses and benefits of a particular product.
  • Time Is Money — Architects are very busy, so manufacturer representatives must make efficient use of this time during sales calls.
  • Setting Ground Rules Architects need to set ground rules with manufacturer representatives, letting them know what it takes to get their products specified.

Response from attendees

So, was the symposium useful? What did attendees have to say when it was done?

Amy Lee, marketing manager for CertainTeed Gypsum‘s group: “The symposium provided useful information, not only about how to market to and communicate most effectively with architects, but also about current trends in the architectural field. We learned from the speakers and the panel what’s most important to architects, what kind of information they need from us, how they want to get it and when they want to get it.”

Mark Johnson, director of sales and marketing education for KraftMaid® Cabinetry: “This event offered incredible learning in a very short period of time — I really appreciated how these top-notch people made such good use of our time. If the architects share what their needs are, as they did at this event, hopefully the marketers will listen.”

And one attendee even blogged about the experience afterward! Check out Eric Nilsson’s thoughts on the CertainTeed blog.

Many, many thanks to everyone who was a part of this event. Do you have additional thoughts, questions, or comments to share? Let us know below!

Miller Brooks
April 21st, 2010

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