Influencing the Influencers: How to Grow Sales by Inspiring Interior Designers and Architects with Product Samples and Kits
If you walk into an architecture or design firm’s sample library you’ll most likely find the shelves packed with the traditional sample binders for building materials. Each binder usually includes a couple of samples glued to an interior spread and some printed brochures to go along with it. To some, this might sound safe and comfortable like an aisle in Office Depot—but to many interior designers and architects, it’s a nuisance. Flipping through a clunky and heavy binder isn’t the sexiest way to browse product samples for a project. As a way to combat the bulkiness of the binder, some firms take the samples out and move them directly into organized bins with other similar product samples. This process can be beneficial for organizing, but sadly bypasses all of the printed materials that designers like myself spend large amounts of time targeting, crafting, and perfecting.
A neighboring integrated architecture and design firm in my office building recently did a purge of all of the outdated materials in their library. The entire square footage of an office space that previously housed 20+ employees was filled with sample binders, carpet scraps, random wood planks, and tons and tons of paper collateral. Staring at the heap, I started thinking about what could have saved some of these kits from biting the dust. Could the colors have been bolder? Could the photography have been sleeker? Would a different aqueous coating have done the trick?
As a graphic designer, I often get similar samples of products promoting new offerings—paper stocks, branded office supplies, brochures—all sent in hopes of me recommending them to a client. The majority of these samples don’t do an effective job selling the product and more often than not they get thrown in the recycling bin, never to be seen again (much like the building product sample kits that were decaying in the large pile).
However, if I receive something that is truly beautiful or inspirational, I hold onto it. As a designer, I want to curate a library of materials that I can reference for inspiration, and I also want a library of materials to show my clients an idea or printing technique that I may want to use. The big questions that arise from this are:
- How do you influence the influencers—in this case, the architects and interior designers?
- Which format is the most inspirational?
Influencing the Influencers
Whenever I’m starting on a new creative endeavor, there’s automatically a foundational set of ideas and designs that I use for reference. This is formed from years of influences, experiences, and samples that I’ve been exposed to that serve as a springboard to dive into further depths of an idea. If a brand is mentally cemented as a go-to product or vendor for a project, there usually isn’t much question of whether or not I’d use it. The factor that controls the specification of a certain product or service is usually price. For a building material product or company to break into the consideration set, the following needs to be accomplished:
- Send a product sample that is hands down really cool. Offer something that shows the product in a beautiful, effective, and functional light.
- Explain how the product will benefit an architect or designer’s project in simple terms. I find that a product’s tech specs are often shifted into the selling points, and personally, that can stress me out. I want to be inspired and see the product in a way that makes me think of applications for my own projects.
- Be bold. This can be achieved through messaging, typography, and color to name a few. In order to be successful, all three need to be embodied.
- Inspire with a story. It’s said that the fastest and easiest way for the brain to absorb information is to break an idea down to a beginning, middle, and end. “When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.” (Lifehacker) When you’re marketing your product in a narrative format, you’re allowing your brand to make a connection that transcends the eye and grabs the heart. This type of influence will be around far longer than a trendy color or typeface.
Which format is the most effective?
Though everything seems to be marching toward digitalization these days, I’ve found that physical materials have begun making a resurgence. When you receive something you can touch, your brain makes a different kind of connection by calling on more of your natural instincts, not just the ones sparked by seeing it on a screen. Even really nicely designed letterpress brochures get recycled; the deciding factor comes down to message and delivery. I believe multidimensional pieces allow for a greater story to be told because they allow you to concept the shape, functionality, interactivity, and message to a greater degree than something that’s two-dimensional. You can even fine-tune smells and textures that tie back to your brand, thus engaging even more of the senses that our bodies were programmed to react to.
We work with Nydree Flooring; they specialize in high-performance wood flooring that’s infused with acrylic for greater durability in high-traffic spaces. The company drew its name from a horse farm in Virginia that the founder grew up near and admired; memories of the farm brought to mind the style and strength of the horses and how those traits were reflected in the durability of their product.
When redoing the brand identity for Nydree, we looked to this narrative to lay the foundation for all of the materials: typography, color, brochures, website, everything. This equestrian theme allowed us to explore image options that were outside of the normal types of photos that you find in a sample library.
This narrative served as inspiration for designing the packaging for their new wide plank sample kit, calling on the textures of horsehair and tanned leather that you’d find in a stable. We crafted the sample kit with a wool felt sleeve with leather strap and wooden buttons that housed a product sample and had a corresponding letter and brochure to go with it. The sleeve was not your ordinary packaging for a flooring sample and was something that a designer could use outside of the office if they chose. This piece served as an inspiration to both sales reps and designers and furthered the equestrian feel that we infused into the heart of the brand’s identity.
If you’re struggling to figure out ways to showcase your product, start at the very core of your brand and figure out what that narrative looks like. Once you’ve established it, use your brand’s story as the foundation for any materials you put out and go from there. Start thinking outside of the binder and don’t be afraid to do something that goes against the traditional grain. No matter which format you choose, give interior designers and architects something that inspires them to go and do what they do best: create