Those operating in the built environment will know that architects and designers (A&D) are time-poor, have a short attention span and go weak at the knees for a beautiful visual. They want inspiration, they want information, and they don’t want to wait for it.
If you make it difficult for them to get what they need, they’ll go elsewhere. And putting up barriers to content – the type that your competition is giving away for free – will put you at an immediate disadvantage.
Being short of time yourself, we understand that keeping abreast of what’s required to hook this niche audience may seem a daunting task. But, with a few small, cost-effective tweaks and additions to existing content on your website and social channels, you may be closer than you think to securing more specification.
Here’s our guide to achieving the right ‘look and feel’ in just three months.
Month one: Talk the talk
The first question to ask is: does your business talk the talk? Architects and designers are experts in their field, and they expect manufacturers to be experts in theirs. They’re looking to be inspired and for all the information they need to be at their fingertips.
But, if you’re entering the commercial sector fresh from, say, the retail market, the wants and needs of an A&D audience might seem alien.
Knowing that A&D are a very different breed to retail buyers, there is some tactical activity that can be undertaken to reposition a manufacturer to suit the audience. To start, looking at tone of voice – both written and visual. Normally engaging the senior team in an in-depth immersion session, we ask some questions to help establish what is required to change:
- Is your website copy written in a way that conveys who you are and what you produce?
- Is your narrative clear, concise and engaging – or are you sending mixed messages? Trying to communicate with too many different audiences, for example?
- Do you come across as an expert in your field? Or are you lacking technical details?
- Similarly, is your photography/videography high-quality and reflective of all that you offer?
All of this must be consistent and ‘hang together’.
For the written tone of voice, we undertake industry and desktop research to develop a messaging house that aligns a manufacturer’s brand values to the vocabulary the audience would expect to see.
To support this, the visual tone of voice is also crucial. We bring in expert creative direction from Collective HQ to develop a visual story that mirrors the written narrative. For a manufacturer, this will likely be through ‘product’ and ‘people’ photography, utilising a series of trend-led colour palettes and versatile ‘sets’ for the former and capturing the skilled factory-based team in the latter.
“What architects and designers want is inspirational imagery. The built environment is a highly saturated market, which means it’s more difficult than ever before to stand out. Without beautiful visuals, a brand or manufacturer is already running themselves out of the race. Investing in photography provides a core component in what it takes to be specified.” – Darren Clanford, creative director, Collective HQ
Month two: Walk the walk
When dealing with an audience that’s so concerned with visuals, it’s easy to forget about functional aspects that are imperative to the buying process. Striking a balance between being ‘inspirational’ and ‘useful’ is key.
While retail buyers have a residential customer in mind, mostly driven by ‘soft’ factors such as aesthetics and comfort, architects and designers working in the contract sector have a wealth of requirements to meet. There are certain assets that are considered essential for manufacturers to provide:
- CAD drawings
- Product images – room set / detail / cut outs
- Installation videos
- Samples available to order
- Product spec sheets
- Client testimonials
- Requirements and certifications
- Pricing information
- A working search bar
- Details of where and how to buy your products
If you’re missing any or all of the above, this needs addressing before anything else. Without having the basics covered off, you’ll lose the majority of your traffic almost immediately through sheer frustration. The new generation of junior architects and designers don’t want to interact with a sales manager. They want to get everything they need as quickly and as hassle-free as possible.
“The more information we have on products, the easier the process is – it’s always a fast-paced search and any brand that can help is more likely to frequently feature on the shortlist.” Soundbite from our qualitative research with A&D professionals
Month three: Go to market
Once your website is updated with a refreshed tone of voice – both written and visual, plus all the technical details your audience requires are accessible easily, it’s time to ‘go to market’.
The easiest and most cost-effective way to get in front of your audience is social media. And as architects and designers are very visual, platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram are perfect for catching their attention. Any content you share must be high quality – it’s a competitive market out there, so this is imperative to achieving cut through. But if you’ve put strong foundations in place with updated photography, you should be well placed to start sharing it.
Although social media engagement might not lead directly to immediate sales, your content is reaching the audience in ‘research mode’ where visuals are gathered for moodboards and client consideration.
“The quality of the photography can literally make or break whether your products are used. Often companies send us shots that are either too poor quality or on the wrong background. If that’s the case, they can’t be put forward to the client.” Soundbite from our qualitative research with A&D professionals.
Of course, social media is just one of your ‘owned’ channels, but it provides a good starting point to test your content and start engaging with your target community.
For more information on how we can help you not only reach, but truly resonate, with architects and designers, read our Roger Lewis case study or get in touch. And to explore how this approach can be rolled out at industry events and beyond, download our free guide Conversations After Clerkenwell.