Forms of Information Used by Specifiers

Chris Ashworth looks at some of the findings from the CPAs most recent report.

One of the follow-up initiatives resulting from the Hackitt Review has been the formation of a Marketing Integrity Group by the Construction Products Association. The purpose of this group is to ensure that construction product information is provided in a clear and unambiguous way. The intention is that the group will publish a set of recommendations for the industry. As part of that process there was a call for evidence which resulted in the publication by the CPA of a Construction Product Information Survey. In addition to informing the CPA’s Marketing Integrity Group’s deliberations, the report provides a useful snapshot of how the industry provides and uses product information. This is particularly useful for the building product marketing manager during the budgeting process and this blog draws out some of the findings on the popular forms of information used.

The report itself is based on 524 responses. This includes 178 manufacturers & modular factories, 146 specifiers and 37 contractors. In addition, there were also 58 distributors and 105 ’other users’. Generally, the reporting splits findings between Providers and Users. I will focus on the feedback from users.

The CPA research covers some of the same subjects as our own published Construction Media Index, and it is reassuring to see that where the reports overlap they give similar results.

Which of the following do you use when looking for construction product information?

Technical literature (89%), manufacturer websites (88%) and Product Data Sheets (84%) are the most popular sources of information for Users. This is not surprising and in many instances,  it is the manufacturer website which will be the starting point to locate literature and data sheets.

Interestingly 81% of Users say they use search engines, but only 46% of Providers see these as a route for providing product information. So perhaps there is a need for greater focus by product manufacturers on search engine optimisation or online advertising and links. Another point to note is that while delivery of information via social media is a focus for 66% of Providers, only 7% of Users use it to source product information. Another example of a miss-match, although our work with the Construction Media Index over the years suggests that there is an element of ‘Passive Use’ of social media. By that I mean that while an Architect might not use social media as a starting point to source product information, a link forwarded via the social network might lead to them becoming aware of a new product. So social media should not be dismissed in terms of its role as a communication channel.

Online product directories are referenced by 66% of Users, the challenge for the manufacturer is to select which directory to advertise in. Our own research shows that most architects will use more than one directory, it is also likely that the directories used will vary depending on the role of the decision maker.

Which of the following types of information do you need when considering construction products?

This is very useful information for the marketing manager trying to prioritise. Top of the list for Users is technical product information to complete the specification (87%). But next is Certification (79%). Since Grenfell this has become particularly important and while the focus is currently on fire performance I’m sure it will expand to cover all aspects of product performance in future. As a manufacturer it is important to make your certification available to give the specifier confidence. It is also really important to ensure you are quoting or providing the most up to date tests and certification. It is so easy to miss an update. When we conduct literature and CPD reviews for clients we almost always find a reference somewhere to out of date regulations, tests or certification. Apart from the legal liability of this, it also undermines your position of credibility. Put in place a process which logs all of the places where this information is quoted and conduct a regular review.

What format do you need this information in?

Many marketing departments have tried to reduce costs by minimising the amount of hardcopy material they publish, so some quantitative data to support this is useful. Feedback from the CPA research shows that the digital format is the most important with Users. No doubt because, if it is available as a digital download, they can get instant access. But the demand for hardcopy is still there. Top of the list of published documents is CPD material (32%) so perhaps distributing your presentation on a USB stick is not acceptable. Then comes the brochure (22%) followed by technical product literature (21%). But the digital format is always more popular than the hardcopy format, with the exception of samples.

Actions to take:

Invest in ensuring that the information the specifier wants is readily accessible on your website in the formats they require.

Conduct regular audits of your website, literature and CPDs seminars to ensure they quote the current performance criteria – Competitive Advantage can help you with this.

When developing your communications plan see the Construction Media Index for details of journal and social media usage.