How To Sell Building Materials and Architectural Products: Beating the Commodity Trap


As a company who makes architectural products or materials, have you ever tried to explain to an architect or designer why your product is special or different? If so, you’ll know that it’s difficult because you have to overcome the commodity perception that all products/materials are created equally and can be substituted at will. So what do you do? Many companies have found success by using a creative agency specializing in architectural products or materials marketing to help facilitating specifications by telling engaging stories for brands. The right marketing partner will tell you what you need to know to make sure your product/material will “beat the commodity trap” by making sure you have a great positioning that can elevate your product from functional benefits to emotional benefits.

When developing an effective customer value proposition, the best method to ensure you end up with a differentiated, motivating positioning that can be a real advantage for your product is by answering the following:

  • Who is your target?

  • What category do you fit in?

  • What is your point of difference?

  • What are the capabilities and strengths of your product that support your point of difference?

  • What’s your product’s benefit?


Who Is Your Target Market?

This is a set of people who share core needs, wishes, wants and desires. Make sure, however, that your target is not simply expressed as a “need state.” Many companies say their product satisfies some need for their target audience. However, we also know that people have “wants,” like a set of Harry Bertoia chairs for instance, which goes beyond a need for seating. If we drill-down even more, we find the “want” is really around certain ego needs, like wanting to impress people or to show off one’s excellent taste in mid-century furniture. The best way to understand your targets is to develop a persona for each. This will give you a good frame of reference as to who is actually specifying your produce.


What Category Do You Fit In? Ask Your Targets: Who Is Our Competition?

Human nature is a funny thing. We often think we know who our competition is until we ask straight out. It could be products from other categories, better reps, pricing or even delivery times that has moved your products/materials into a new competitive set.


What Is Your Point of Difference?

Go ahead, stand in an architects or designers library, can you do the following:

  • Identify the company?

  • Identify the category?

  • Identify the product?

  • Identify why this product/material should be chosen above the rest?

This is where building your brand helps you to stand out. First, you must define your product/materials difference. Is your product/materials promise; a singularly focused claim of superiority vs. competition. Is it a classic pattern that never goes out of style? Or how about state-of-the art hotel bathroom fixtures engineered with your guests' safety in mind. Make sure your point of difference is differentiating and sustainable and isn’t related to the frame of reference defined earlier. If it does, you’ll have trouble elevating your product/material from a commodity mindset.


What Are the Capabilities and Strengths of Your Product That Support Your Point of Difference?

This is your justification. Your messaging needs to convey your narrative in the simplest terms possible and in a way that clearly resonates with your audience. For example, “Our treated leather works to reduce germ transfers in hospital waiting rooms.”


What Is Your Product's Benefit?

This is the rational and emotional result of using your product/material, which addresses the core needs of your target customers.  In the case of a boutique hotel, architects and designers feel comfortable specifying furnishings that cost a little more to ensure that they’re unlikely to be found among larger hotel chains.  Make sure your product’s benefit fits the need of the target, fits the frame of reference, is motivating and meets both emotional and rational needs.

Now that you know what to look for in a great positioning, you’re ready to start making a marketing investment without worrying that your message will fall on deaf ears.


Susan Milne

Want to grow your sales by increasing specifications by architects and designers? Click here to download our guide: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GETTING SPECIFIED: HOW ARCHITECTS AND INTERIOR DESIGNERS SPECIFY ARCHITECTURAL PRODUCTS AND BUILDING MATERIALS. If you have a question that hasn’t been answered or would like find out more about how Epiphany can help you get specified, give me a call: 804.377.0106. 


Epiphany Studio