Manufacturer Resources

Lead Generation for Manufacturers: 4 Digital Tactics for Specifications Growth

By age and experience, I’m a dinosaur in the world of building products. I started in the glass and glazing industry way back in 1991, when orders and quotes were sent by mail. The oncoming addition of fax machines was the newest game changing technology.

I should be extinct or be headed that way by now, but I’ve refused to allow that to happen. Through my career, I continue to reach new architects and expand to new markets, because I’ve always been determined to stay on top trends. I’ve paid special attention to the goal of reaching the design community.

Why brochures don’t bring in active projects anymore.

When I started in building products, the printed brochure was king. 24, 32, and even 48 pages or MORE long, you name it, I had it. There was an opus created on every corner, bundled and sent to architects all over the country. That’s how we communicated. Now, there’s a multitude of ways to get in front of architects and truly make a helpful impact on their projects, build relationships between your reps and firms, and get your product data on the right architect’s desk. Smart manufacturers are utilizing every tool available to make it all happen.

So, what are those tools? Most architects are using digital platforms on the Internet to find building products. You can reach them in a variety of ways and some paths work better than others.

Before trying these methods, review your existing product marketing.

However, before you start, take a look at your product content. Look at it like a journalist would look at a news story. Make sure what you have covers the basic tenants of: who, what, where, why, and how are covered. This is what architects will look for from you, so it’s important to have this ready to go.

  • Who are you?

  • What is the product?

  • Where can someone order this/where can it be shipped to?

  • Why are you in this space and why is the product worthy?

  • How does it work, perform, and how can someone get it?

Once you have this set it’s much easier and more effective is disseminate through the channels noted below!

Tactic 1: A website that works for architects.

Your website. Take a hard look and ask yourself, “if I was an architect, could I find what I need

on here and do it in a quick and painless manner?”

If the answer is “no” then time to get to work. In the 2019 edition of the “Architect’s Journey to Specification” report by the American Institute of Architects, it was revealed that 73% of architects will leave your website if they can’t find what they need in a few clicks. In the 2023 edition of the same report, your web presence and having responsive reps were the top priorities for architects looking to work with you.

There are a ton of “pretty” websites that have tons of bells and whistles that are light on

content. Look past the beauty and go for function and info. Architects want to find the data they need, get a rep’s contact info, and know they can rely on both. One big win is to add some of your customer testimonials to your homepage. People are much more likely to be interested in brands that have some social proof backing them up.

Blogging to answer questions for architects

Blog it! I have been blogging since 2005, and I’ve been able to make real connections through it. My goal was to keep the glass industry informed on the latest moves and innovations. Your goal is to educate your potential customer on what you have and why it makes a difference.

250-300 words will do and add a picture or two if you have it. Architects want to see case studies of your products, real-world examples, and maybe some behind-the-scenes on what working with you is like. Make a schedule before you start. Pick topics that help architects understand the values of your products, and how you’re different from the competition. Decide how many you want to do and to figure out what to write about, think about the questions you get most from architects.

Too many times, manufacturers start this section and then die off or give up. That’s usually a lack of planning from the start. Don’t be that person. Plan it out. It’ll be worth it. Most blogs are located on your company website, but you can also choose to go independent on outlets like Medium, Substack, Blogger and more. This can give you added reach, too.

Tactic 2: Get social, especially on LinkedIn

Specifically, my suggestion is LinkedIn. Now I know people are utilizing other forums but I think the clear winner is LinkedIn. It has stayed professional and above the typical social media fray and has been a worthy tool for everyone up and down the supply chain to use.

The content you create for your website and your blogs work seamlessly on LinkedIn. Too easy of an approach to miss. Plus, using social networks smartly can help you make relationships that boost your reach, too.

Tactic 3: Think beyond cold email

Cold email doesn’t have the reach it used to

Has your email marketing gone bonkers post-Covid? It’s the same everywhere, with low open rates and conversion. The industry is scrambling to come up with solutions to reach architects. The reality is that the the way architects find products and brands is changing dramatically. While still a solid way to get information out in an inexpensive way, the penetration is lacking and worse yet the open rates are headed in the wrong direction.

Snail mail and gift cards

You could try a snail mail program that has a call to action that drives people to your website/blog/social presence. Yes, there’s an expense from sending out something in the physical mail but an effective mailer right now has a better chance at standing out vs. the 187th email that the architect will get that day from a manufacturer. Sweeten the deal too. Offer a gift card for a cup of coffee or swag for following through on the call to action. This surely sounds like the dinosaur in me, but I have seen it work on numerous occasions and believe in its effectiveness.

Tactic 4: Go where the architects are

Digital platforms are becoming the main way architects spec.

Every manufacturer has been hit with the pitch of “our site can reach all the architects you need. Just pay us XX and it’ll magically happen.” News flash - if that database is stagnant and passive, that’s not going to happen. Your partnerships with architects should happen as early in the design process as possible, and most platforms can’t offer that kind of reach.

Acelab is the one exception I’ve found. Because it’s built and run by architects, they had these outreach issues fixed out the gate. Then they went steps further by integrating the manufacturer's details into a format that allows the architect easy access to a product pool, then an immediate connection to the manufacturer. You get seen based on if your products fit what they’re looking for, not if you’re on the first page of Google. With collaborative approaches like design

assist now a dominant area, having a database functioning positively for you is a must. Plus, it takes a lot of the legwork out of your marketing - no need to optimize for SEO if architects can find you through a platform that runs on product data.

Continuing education credits, please.

Last and still popular is the traditional courses given for educational credit. These by rule have to be germane but they don’t have to be boring. Dive deep into the important aspects of the product line and more importantly, dive into the case studies.

Everyone in every walk of life LOVES case studies, so they can learn what went right and what went wrong. No one loves that more than people in the building product community. Talk about the process, the hurdles, the wins, the losses. Educate. Inform. Yes, a part of that room is there to get credits to keep status, but many others are there to learn and file this info away for the next project they are working on. Post-Covid, online webinars are a great way to reach architects, but make sure you’re partnering with a platform that can get you the right audience. You want to reach architects that are decision-makers, specifiers, and managers, and with active projects they can use your products on.

There’s many ways to start generating more leads online.

In closing you see there’s many different ways to get that messaging out, some easier than others. You’ve hopefully also caught that prep and planning are huge parts of this. Take your time and do it right. Remember, it all starts with the building of the content and then disseminating in the right places. And don’t let yourself go extinct. Evolve with the times.

When you see something that is groundbreaking like Acelab - dive in. When you see an opening with a direct mail campaign, do it. After all of these years I continue to learn something new pretty much every day and am thrilled that my wiring has allowed that to happen! So more roaming of the building product earth for me and best of luck to all of you pushing your products and services out there!