May 2002 Newsletter

Marketing with AIA Learning Units

***** Quick Links

AIA Link - to their page on Continuing Education. This provides additional information on the AIA learning units.
[Link moved]

****** The 4specs Perspective

When I was a product rep, I used lunch presentations as a key marketing tool to get the office designers and specifier familiar with the products I sold. These presentations placed me in front of more than just the spec writer or designer on one project. While they were expensive in both lunch costs and time, I felt they were very productive in getting the products I sold into the plans and specifications.

Michael Chambers gave me permission to quote his newsletter article and I have some summary ideas at the bottom of the article. Michael is a rare bird - a Fellow of both the CSI and AIA. I have known Michael since the middle 1980's when he was a specifier in Sacramento. Michael said what I wanted to say and here is his article:

A View from the Back of the Bus
Minneapolis-St. Paul CSI specifics-February 2002

Michael D. Chambers FAIA FCSI CCS
Contributing Editor

Strategic Marketing with Continuing Education

In my perspective from the back of the bus, I have observed that many manufacturers and product reps are not being very strategic about marketing with continuing education. There appears to be considerable confusion about when to offer AIA/CES continuing education or when to give a product presentation. Or worse yet, many providers are giving up product presentations and only offering so-called continuing education programs.

Generally speaking, I believe that providing AIA/CES continuing education is always preferable to presenting a product presentation. In the long run, continuing education is a much more effective marketing tool. It clearly demonstrates industry expertise, design application, and specification knowledge far better than a product presentation. If your continuing education programs are truly non-biased and impartial (not generic and non-proprietary), you will solidly establish yourself and your firm as industry experts and critical resources for your segment of the industry.

[emphasis added by 4specs]
In my mind, ultimate success in marketing design professionals is being the first rep the specifier calls and getting specified. Continuing education is about expertise, not products.

On the other hand, when you have an opportunity to work with a design professional on a project, consider not offering an AIA/CES program. Give them a project-focused product presentation that will help them design and build a better mouse trap. It is very important to understand the strategic difference. By policy and definition, continuing education programs are about educating the design professionals on industry standards, applications, and range of industry solutions. Product presentations are clearly sales and marketing presentations, that, while educational, are not professional development type programs.

If the design professionals inquire about continuing education credit, remind them that they can self-report any type of product or educational presentation. I suggest that you have available blank copies of the AIA Form A Self Report Form. Under no circumstances fill it out. AIA/CES's policy does not allow providers to fill out self report forms.

In the final analysis, implementing this 2-fold strategy will allow you to cover your marketing options much more effectively and with a significantly higher lever of service to the design professionals.

That's my view from the back of the bus, welcome aboard, come on back, and let me hear from you.


Michael D. Chambers FCSI FAIA, CCS is actively engaged in designing, production, and presenting continuing education programs, guide specifications, and sales training for the construction product industry. He is active nationally in FAIA, CSI, DHI, SCIP, and WDMA. Michael is principal of MCA Specification, Construction Product Marketing Group of Eden Prairie, MN and a specifier for ATS&R Architects of Minneapolis, MN. He can be reached at 925-941-2750 or at

4specs Additional Thoughts

  1. Not every architect is a member of AIA - only 30% are members is a number I recall but cannot trackdown. In large firms only the principals are typically AIA members. The other 70% still need continuing education in 22 states to maintain their licenses.
  2. While AIA members need 18 hours of continuing education or Learning Units per year and 8 in Health Safety and Welfare, 22 states require architects to have continuing education and generally 8 hours of HSW.
  3. According to AIA, self designed programs cannot be used for HSW hours, but your presented program may qualify for HSW hours.
  4. When I did these presentations, I had available a copy of the talk outline so the architect can document the presentation and self report the hours.
  5. Selling through continuing education will not work for every type of product. I sold firestopping and fireproofing and easily qualified for the HSW hours. Selling irrigation equipment will be more difficult.

Here are two firms with marketing programs that can provide you assistance in presenting your product information in continuing education programs. Note that 4specs has exchanged marketing with both firms.

[one firm no longer in business]

Ron Blank and Associates - has a wide range of architectural marketing services. For learning units, they will help develop a course, put the course on their website so architects can access the course online, and they will report your attendees to the AIA for credit.


Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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