September 2002 Newsletter

What is the Purpose of Your Website

**** Marketing Tip

Many independent reps and companies use box lunch presentations to meet architects and to present their product information. A box lunch seminar takes a lot of time to set up and to do and can be expensive. Seldom do the firm owners or junior people attend. Some firms only schedule one lunch presentation per week Some firms are scheduling 8-12 weeks in advance, and focus primarily on lunches with life-safety credits for their professional licenses.

How about providing coffee and pastries in the morning, and get a chance to meet the entire firm? One independent rep told me about his program to greet all of the people in the firm.  He sets up a table top exhibit with all the products he represents and passes out literature and business cards along with the coffee and pastries.

Frequently partners as well as junior architects and CAD operators will come through. All of these people will be more likely to call this rep when they need design and specification assistance with his products.

A group of reps in an area could coordinate the program and sell the concept to all the larger architects in an area in a coordinated program. My hats off to Rick Felton in the Denver area for this idea. Rick is also one of under 200 CSI Certified Construction Product Reps (CCPR) in the US.

**** The 4specs Perspective

What is the purpose of your website?

A very simple question, but a very important one. As most of the companies listed in the 4specs directory are ultimately specification driven, we see these as the primary purposes for a product website:

  1. Getting specified.
  2. Providing the architect with enough information to hold the specification, and not permit a substitution to be approved.
  3. Getting a substitution approved when you were not specified.

The website purpose is not to present a pretty face and some glossy flash about your company. While the ultimate purpose is to sell products, being specified or being accepted as a substitution is a necessary step for most projects. While many sales people perceive that specifications are not being held, many times the architect did not have enough information available to hold the spec.

If you are a public company you will need to present your financial information and if you sell to consumers you will need information related to their needs. In the future, it will become increasingly important to use your website to make it easy for your dealers (or subcontractors if you sell direct) to buy your products. eCommerce if you wish, phase 3.

Anything that gets in the way of being specified or being approved may cost you a sale. Over the past 8 months I have looked at over 15,000 product websites. You probably not be surprised at the problems we frequently see: no phone number, no address for the corporate office and an email address that does not work.

4specs recently ran a short survey. 10,000 users saw the survey, 100 responded. Not exactly scientific, but interesting. [Link not active anymore]

  1. 65% use the Internet as a PRIMARY resource.
  2. 41% said websites were poor, 41% OK
  3. 71% were specifiers, architects or engineers, 19% contractors
  4. 41% said their primary job was specifications, 21% was working drawings
  5. 58% worked on commercial, industrial or hospitality projects, 22% on governmental and institutional.

We propose that every website can be excellent. We recommend cutting away everything on your website that does not improve the probability of being specified. This includes all the nice web tricks that make a website "look nice" but slows down the website or provides less than top search engine results.

The worst websites have deliberate design decisions that significantly reduce the number of free referrals from search engines. These decisions include websites using primarily flash and database driven websites. More about these later, or look again at our newsletter on making your website search engine friendly.

While writing this newsletter, I received this email asking me to write an article for their print newsletter. Here is a quote from that email:

Do you think manufacturers will ever understand what the specifier wants, or will they continue to offer only pretty pictures? Do you feel that the architects and specifiers will ever get their message across?

I recognize that there is a natural tension between the sales and marketing people verses the IT department or web consultant. The marketing people better understand the specification issues and the IT Department or web consultant is looking to use the latest tools to make a hot website. Over the next year or so we will be revisiting many of the design issues concerning websites and focusing on getting specified, getting substituted and making it easy to purchase your products.

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Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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