January 2001 Newsletter
*** QUICK CLICKS:
A great resource to understand what is happening with Internet advertising. I read their articles on a daily basis. Not always applicable to construction advertising, but a great resource.
[Link no longer available]
A new website focused on news and marketing for the construction industry. I may be a bit biased, but this looks like a promising site. Their inaugural issue had an article on 4specs.com.
*** The 4specs Perspective
Unlike consumer eCommerce where the objective is to get the user to purchase the book or CD, the initial user of the construction product manufacturer's website seldom purchases materials. Rather than a immediate impact on sales, a website's initial objective should be to help get your products included in the project's plans and specifications. When successful, the contractor will typically purchase the materials 12 - 18 months later using the plans and specs with your products included.
Construction eCommerce has two distinct phases:
1) the design and bidding phase, and
2) the materials purchase phase.
4specs.com connects the working construction professional (architect, engineer, specifier, contractor, etc.) to manufacturers' information online. We now provide fast access to over 7,100 manufacturers' websites as well as 600 trade associations and reference standard organizations.
For reasons described in our June newsletter - Construction eCommerce - Hype and Reality, we think the eCommerce phase for materials purchase will probably occur only in the distant future:
While it may take some time for a website to impact sales, in the near term the Internet can create significant savings and enhance the quality of information readily available to the user. The Internet is already starting to replace product binders found in offices, and reducing the faxing and priority mailing of data sheets. Most manufacturers' websites do not yet provide all the information users need. We do recognize that many companies have plans to significantly update their website and increase the available information.
At this point in time, the primary focus of your website should be to support and reinforce the efforts of your sales team and other marketing - advertising and Sweets catalogs for example. 4specs.com was partially inspired by one company I represented in 1995. Their two binders contained over 750 pages of xeroxed materials, costing over $100 per set. Due to the cost, it was a constant struggle to get enough binders for all the major architectural offices in the San Francisco area. The sales manager recognized this information was already dated, but did not have the budget to completely revise the binder. I realized that the Internet could completely replace those binders, with significant savings and increased usability for the users.
Your website should provide the information a designer needs to select and design using your products. ALL OF IT. Don't worry, your competitors already have your UL test reports and other proprietary information, so make that information available to the architect. You have copies of their information, don't you? So make it easy for potential users to access that information as well.
What are realistic performance expectations for the Internet? You are not going to double sales the first month. If 500 people visit your website in a month, and your products are specified in 10 specifications as a result, and this results in five new sales over the year, the website efforts are well placed. This may seem pessimistic, but I think is a realistic perspective. If nothing else, your product information has probably been seen by at least 25 new people, and you saved the cost of sending them binders and answering simple questions on the phone.
Let us know what you think about this new email format and your comments to the information provided.
Publisher - 4specs