The Changing Dynamics of Product Specification – 3 Influences Not to Ignore

In this blog Chris Ashworth looks at the three major influences on specification and evaluates the changing dynamics of product specification.

When I was first involved with specification selling, in the early 1980’s, you built a relationship with an architect, persuaded them of the benefits of your product, they put its name on the drawing and in the fullness of time you got an order. Job done! (OK it was a bit more complicated than that). Today it is a much more complex selling process, effective specification sales need an understand of the wide range of drivers behind the requirement of a product and then to present relevant benefits.

Nowadays to be able to influence the specification of a product it is necessary to be able to understand how to relate to specifiers and build relationships with those in the Decision Making Unit (DMU). Although the construction industry is not glamorous it is responsible for 7% of UK GDP and has a very complex DMU, representing a marketing challenge, and as the government moves to introduce new ways of working in the industry the DMU is set to change.

Delivering value in tough times

A simple policy of lowest price is a dangerous one. If your company has the lowest cost it might be successful, otherwise you are courting disaster.

Yes costs are important and need to be controlled, but the answer is to adopt an innovative approach which delivers value to your clients and customers while allowing you to operate on an acceptable margin. And value is not just based on lowest capital cost. Increasingly built environment clients are recognising the need to control lifetime costs, and the benefits to be gained from the efficient use of a building by its occupants. So look at what can be improve and what can be done to gain competitive advantage over competitors.

The clever companies deliver value by delivering extra benefits to their customers. These benefits have to be real and worthwhile and include saving money in other areas: less time on site, reduced scaffolding hire, a single point of contact for several packages, minimal disruption, liaising with building occupants. All of these ideas have been used by contractors to deliver value to their clients. There is an opportunity for product manufacturers to help contractors gain savings in these areas.

The chances are that the obvious ways of delivering value, like the examples above, have already been claimed. So, make time to look at your strategy. What are the threats and opportunities you will encounter in each sector and how will your business deal with them?

Further thoughts:

  • Take time to stay in touch with construction market economics, as well as any government initiatives and regulations, something covered every month in the Competitive Advantage eNewsletter.
  • Being informed of changing influences on product specification helps you stay ahead. Use training to keep your sales team up to date.
  • Keeping informed of customer needs is important with regular research helping you to develop a winning business strategy.



The Hackitt Review and forthcoming Building Safety Bill have highlighted the need for construction to improve its mechanisms. In future there will be much closer scrutiny of the whole process from design, through construction to building management. Specifiers and contractors will want to have confidence that they can trust the advice and information that building product manufacturers provide. That means there must be processes in places to ensure information is consistent and accurate. It also means there is a need to ensure those in your sales teams and technical advisory department are competent to give advice.

Further thoughts:

  • Have a process in place to log what technical data is posted where and when there is a specification change ensure it is updated everywhere.
  • It is not just product data which needs to be accurate, ensure that when legislation or standards are quoted they are current. Nothing undermines a specifier’s confidence like references in literature or a CPD seminar to out of date standards. Conduct a thorough resource review.
  • Use your CPD seminars as a training medium for your sales and technical teams. They should fully understand the content and be competent to explain it to third parties.


Digitisation within the Construction industry

Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, is the name given to the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. In construction, Building Information Modelling, or BIM has been a key enabler. It makes it easier to introduce offsite manufacture and provides greater transparency during design and construction.

When people started to work from home as a result of Covid-19 there was also a race to adopt cloud technologies and improve accessibility. Workforce monitoring as part of health & safety is also now becoming more common. And incorporation of product identifiers will confirm which products have been installed, with the more advanced systems also generating a notification when a product requires maintenance or is failing.

To take advantage product manufacturers need to understand BIM and the greater digital picture. Including how your products should be presented and the information that will be required.

Further thoughts:

  • Various online service providers are evolving their offering in response to the rapid digitisation of the construction industry. Be aware of these and how they can help promote your construction products.
  • It is not just the design and construction process that is changing. How building product manufacturers engage with specifiers is also changing. Consider how you should be introducing sales automation.



Since the start of the last decade the construction industry has been making significant effort to modernise. Covid-19 will be a game changer forcing the industry to adopt new ways of working in response to social distancing requirements on site and to bring back output to previous levels.

The way decision makers engage with product manufacturers will also change, they will be less accessible and make greater use of online conferencing. The engagement process needs to evolve in response to this.

This will be a great opportunity for those product manufacturers who change the way they work, and those who fail to respond may find they lose market share to more innovative competitors.


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Competitive Advantage has been conducting construction market research since 2000. Our research team have construction industry experience, are familiar with the industry’s language and practices and understand the challenges you and your customers face.

Our commercial experience means that we have a team available to help you implement your marketing strategies from reviewing CPDs to identifying target decision makers.

We aim to provide high quality information at an economic cost.

View our case studies page to learn more about the work we have completed, or contact us to discuss your requirements.

Related articles:

Blog: Digital Information Drive

Blog: Automating the Sales Process

Blog: Reviewing your Specification Strategy

eLearning: Construction Industry Overview – Drivers for Change