It was easy in the old days. People all had their predetermined roles, and with communications working the way they did, we could stick to them. Marketing put together literature, sales took it to the specifier and technical manned the helpline and focused on qualified leads and confirmed projects.
But things aren’t like that anymore.
Sales can’t always find the specifier anymore. They have moved on, left the business, set up anew in a back bedroom somewhere, and anyway, ‘We don’t keep a hard copy library now’. Sales people find it harder to get the chance to sell.
Technical have different problems. They are inundated with emails and the phone is ringing off the hook. Technical don’t have time to talk to marketing, or to support sales, and specifiers have worked out how to find them using the Internet so they end up taking on a marketing role. No wonder they are hiding.
And Marketing has issues too. Instead of a small amount of carefully created content in the form of product brochures and trade stands that take months to produce, marketing is expected to churn out vast quantities of online ‘content’, run a blog, a twitter account, and more, and keep everything online up-to-date in an environment they may not have been trained for.
Meanwhile the Specifier has her own agenda. She is often looking for things late at night or last minute with her boss on the warpath. She’s worked out she can find the technical guy on LinkedIn and approach him direct, and she forms her opinions of your brand based on what she reads that her friends have said online.
If your teams sound like they are suffering from this malaise, you might be tempted to carry on as before; but this would be a mistake. We can’t put the Internet back in the box. We have to create online materials, even if we don’t have the time. We can’t make the specifier contact us on our own terms, and we can’t control what she needs either. Trying to resist how the market is changing won’t make us more effective, or more efficient.
But we can do things differently. We can make less content, we can use it more. But if it is going to be fit for purpose we need to make the right things, using the right people.
So who should be talking to Specifiers?
Recently I’ve seen the challenge for construction marketing put into this format:
- The specifier only wants to talk to technical;
- Talking to the specifier is the job of sales;
- The marketer gets in the way by dumbing down technical content and preventing the specifier getting what they want.
Whilst there is some truth in all these statements at times, marketers don’t really get in the way. It is the job of marketers to make content understandable, but they often have to plough a lonely furrow, making content without contact with the other parties who are unwilling or unable to participate.
If you want to avoid burn out in your technical staff, frustration in your sales staff and underperforming marketing, every part of your team is required to help the specifier get what she wants. A happy specifier is repeat business.
Without Technical, your content is too simple.
Technical has the product expertise, so they have to be involved. However, they are busy and prone to jargon and excesses of technical detail the specifier may not need. They don’t necessarily have the communication skills, or the understanding of the specifier to talk to them direct. Nonetheless, Technical are still the most experienced about the product.
Without Sales, your content is not targeted.
Sales have the knowledge of the specifier, so they have to be involved. They meet them every day when on the road. Now they might not have all the answers, and their communications strategies might not be working as efficiently as before. They may even need to learn how to capitalise on new technologies and learn how to deliver their messages. Nonetheless, Sales are still the most experienced about the specifier and their needs.
Without Marketing, your content is not presented.
Marketing has the job of interpreting. With expertise in communications, they can translate technical jargon into understandable, useful content. But they can’t do it without the technical know-how or in-depth understanding of the specifier needs. They need the support and involvement of both sales and marketing.
Everyone participates in Talking to the Specifier.
To communicate with specifiers we don’t need to break our organisations, wear out our staff or discount our individual specialisms, but we do need to work together to make better content. Every discipline has a part to play in making sure our content is high quality, useful and targeted to the audience for whom it is created, otherwise you’re throwing money down the drain.
Do your marketing people meet regularly with sales and technical to share knowledge and develop strategies? Perhaps they should.
This article originally appeared in the RIBA Insight Monthly Briefing.
Feature Image: Last Conversation Piece, 1994-95, Bronze by Juan Munoz, Spanish, born Madrid, 1953-2001 Photo by nostri-imago (creative commons)