In 2018, the AIA collaborated with construction companies Avitru and ConstructConnect to explore the relationship between architects and the manufacturers of the products designers consider specifying. With 400 survey respondents from across the country, 83 percent of whom are licensed architects, the AIA published the 44-page report “The Architect’s Journey to Specification: Rethinking the Relationship Between Architects and Manufacturers.”
Based on the survey results, the AIA found that architects often fall into one of three personality categories—conservatives (34 percent), dynamists (35 percent), and risk takers (31 percent)—that inform their specification tendencies, relationships with manufacturer representatives, and priorities.
Conservatives are more likely to be male baby boomers who rely on products they have worked with in the past and seek relationships with representatives and brands. Dynamists are often younger and tech-savvy; they rely on past experience with products and prioritize digital interaction with manufacturers. Risk takers are also young and statistically more often based in the West Coast. They focus on the environmental superiority of products and are therefore willing to experiment with new solutions.
The group also interviewed 42 building product manufacturers to better understand their motivations and approaches to working with architects.
Below, we highlight the top factors that can make or break the relationship between architects and building product manufacturers.
Expertise and Trust
According to survey respondents, architects look to manufacturer representatives to function as “trusted advisers” with whom they can build a relationship over time. As such, reps should be experts not only in their products, but also an entire product category. Moreover, architects appreciate reps who can offer insight into products by competitors.
And that level of trust appears to be valued by manufacturers as well. According to one manufacturer representative, “[Architects want] someone who can give them honest answers about their products and their competitor’s products, because they want a resource and not a sales person. They want it to be a more consultative contact than a sales contact. It is important for my credibility to provide them with the right product rather than just my product, because when they need my product, they will come back.”
Architects’ communication preferences can vary based on personality type, but 73 percent of respondents reported favoring face-to-face interactions with reps. As such, the report recommends that manufacturers ensure specifiers have designated points of contact that prioritize responsiveness. The AIA found that only 36 percent of surveyed architects reported feeling satisfied with the responsiveness of reps.
While architects call for a greater availability of reps and ease of contact, they do not find follow-ups during the specification-writing process beneficial. Instead, respondents “value a rep that follows up after the specification is made, to hear if there were any issues and offer advice.,” according to the report.
Unsurprisingly, brand websites are the primary way an architect engages with a manufacturer, making the navigability of such sites critical to the relationship. According to the data collected, 73 percent of architects will leave a site if they cannot find what they are seeking within a few clicks, and they are “twice as likely to look for product information on a competitor’s website than they are to contact the manufacturer” if they cannot find that information.
One high-level takeaway from the report: The architect/specifier–manufacturer/product representative relationship is highly personal, but can often benefit from increased transparency and understanding. Which, for anyone in a successful relationship, may be familiar advice.
Visit aia.org to request a full version of the report.