How To Sell To Architects and Designers: Matching Marketing Materials to the Sales Specification Journey


Architects and Designers Are Creative and Methodical People, Trained to Follow Process.

They value order and are easily overwhelmed by too much information at the wrong time. When selling to architects and designers, it is critical to match the level of product information you provide to their expectations along the sales specification journey.

And at the beginning, that means one thing: Less is more.

Sales and marketing departments find the idea of condensing product information in marketing materials almost counterintuitive. For them, “less is more” doesn’t translate so well in a world where more equates with better. In practice, however, once a prospect becomes overwhelmed by too much information at the wrong time, they shut down, disregard the information, and remove the product or material from their specification consideration set.

Keeping architects and designers—and your product—on the track to specification is relatively simple if you design your materials to fit the four levels of the sales specification journey: awareness, interest, desire, and action.

Let’s begin at the beginning.


Level 1: Awareness

Keeping abreast of the latest trends in their industry requires architects and designers to cultivate an unrelenting thirst for knowledge. Many states require continuing education for a lifetime to maintain licensure. In other words, your prospects are anything but passive participants in the sales journey; they’re actively seeking out your products/materials.

In the awareness phase, it’s the job of your product or material to get the attention of architects and designers. They want to see stunning images of your product/material in situ, close-up and in silhouette, if applicable. They want an understanding of size and texture. They want to be impressed. Properly executed, materials produced for the awareness stage will captivate the imagination and inspire further inquiry. There’s no need to muddy the waters with technical specs or company profile just yet.

The goal of awareness stage materials is to build desire. Now that we understand what materials in the awareness stage are supposed to accomplish, let’s look at where architects and designers are finding out about new products/materials.

  • Print

  • Digital

  • Trade Shows

  • Reps


Trade Publications

Despite the dominance of digital media, print continues to deliver a uniquely tactile experience for architects and designers that digital just can’t touch. The lure of high quality imagery and beautiful typography on luxury, oversized paper in print magazines is so powerful that architects and designers often plan for time to read these pieces and frequently archive them in a library of their own.

Whether it’s trade publications like Contract MagazineHospitality DesignArchitectThe Architectural ReviewArchitectural RecordDesign & BuildReviewMetropolis or consumer-focused magazines such as ELLE DECOR and Dwell, print remains a critically valuable source of new product information for many architects and designers.

At Epiphany, we take a good, better, best approach to print:

  • Good: Beautiful image of the product in a stunning project situation and contact details. This is best if it can be run consistently. We recommend a six-month minimum media buy.

  • Better: Beautiful image of the product in a stunning project situation with close-up and/or image of the product in silhouette and contact details. Realistically, you’ll need a larger ad with a six-month minimum media buy.

  • Best: The ultimate display is getting your product highlighted in a featured project layout with article text describing its value in detail. This is a PR initiative.


By now, most companies recognize the necessity of an inbound/lead-generating website with a strong, ongoing digital content strategy. But these days, that’s the par for the digital course. Getting your products on blogs and websites where prospects are actively looking for inspiration is an excellent way to invest your PR/Marketing dollars and diversify your digital efforts.


The most digitally-savvy companies are incorporating Pinterest into their digital strategy. They use it in two ways. First, they curate their own boards to show the inspiration behind the brand, how the product is made, and how it fits into the world of architecture and design. Second, they assemble boards around one or two product benefits for their reps to share with prospects. Using Pinterest in this way is genius: Architects and designers love it because they don’t have to search, and reps love it because they can easily show how their product can be the solution to the problem.

Trade Shows

Architects and designers view both local and national trade shows as places to discover new products and materials. Local trade shows offer reps an opportunity to have longer, in-depth conversations with customers about real projects; but be wary of quality. If poorly attended, local shows can smack of desperation.

National trade shows such as IBS, BDNY, NeoCon, ICFF, and HD Las Vegas offer a high-level professional stage from which to launch new products or reinforce existing ones, but they can also overwhelm attendees, leaving them with little recollection of what they saw.

In the world of trade shows, strategy is the key to success. Pre-show mailings or emails are often a waste. To quote a designer, “I get all these emails and postcards from companies [that] I didn’t sign up for telling me to come by and see their booth at a show I am not going to attend.” Focus your resources on drawing qualified prospects to your booth, rather than trying to get the largest crowd or appeal to those who may not attend at all.

After a show, many companies push out one or two emails to visitors and call it a day. But the show is just the beginning of a process that can take anywhere from months to years. Don’t forget how long the sale cycle is. Before your prospect places an order, they must become aware of your product, find the right project for it, sell it to their client, and finally, specify it. It is important to nurture those leads consistently over time.


Sales reps remain the number one trusted source for new products and materials. The best reps follow the product/material from introduction to installation and are seen by prospects as partners in the design and build process. They should be armed with a compelling presentation, sales materials, samples, and leave behinds. In the awareness stage, it is vital that reps focus on building relationships and avoid overwhelming prospects with technical specs or lengthy product stories.


Level 2: Familiarity


All brand-building and awareness efforts ultimately lead your prospects to the company website. The first time a prospect visits your site, they’re expecting:

  • High res images of the product in situ

  • Three levels of product imagery

    • in situ (room view)

    • close-up

    • in silhouette, if applicable

    • The ability to select a colorway and then see it in situ (if applicable)

    • An easy way to order samples and/or contact the rep (respond within the hour if possible)

    • Ideally, your website shouldn’t be a passive experience. The goal is to have the prospect contact a local rep, request a sample, or both. At the familiarity stage, that’s about as far as prospects are willing to go—but it’s a critical step forward in the sale cycle. Make sure your site is designed to provide them with the level of engagement they are seeking in the most user-friendly, delightful way possible.


Level 3: Consideration

Sample in hand

With sample in hand, your prospect will return to the website for technical specs, budget pricing, and availability on their own. And they’ll be expecting to see details on all three at this stage.

If an exact pricing structure isn’t feasible, it’s important to give a range. Estimates for installation costs can easily be addressed with simple copy, which reads something like, “…expect an additional 10 to 20% additional cost for installation depending on market rates.”

Lead times are very important to prospects who need to know if specifying the product will work with their timeline before they sell the idea to their clients.

Architects and designers are very receptive to supporting information in the form of copy, charts, or infographics that can help them sell the products/materials they’ve specified. Does your product cost less to maintain than its competition? Is it made from recycled materials? Is it lighter? More cost-effective? Any information that gives your product a competitive edge will be useful.


Level 4: Specification

Time for specifiers to sell your product to their client

Having been exposed to the carefully focused marketing tools you’ve provided, prospects now feel confident enough to sell your product to their client. They have the right high-res images, Pinterest boards, samples, costs, availability schedules, and any graphics/data points that will assist in making the sale.

Once the specification has been approved, it’s back to the website to download full technical specs and product details.

And by now, the rep should have placed the sample kit in the library.


A Note on Libraries

Today’s firms are downsizing their libraries to make space for more revenue-generating staff. Architects and designers want well-marked and organized samples. They want a way to reorder missing samples without the need for lengthy conversations with reps or filling out a long form online. Printed materials no longer have a home in a library; specifiers prefer to download and print on demand, and brochures should be designed accordingly.


In Closing

The specification journey is about little wins on the long haul to success. In the age of information, it’s all too easy for architects and designers—indeed, any of us—to become overwhelmed by countless brands fighting for their undivided attention.

So, don’t be like the rest.

Resist the temptation to overwhelm your prospects with too much information early in the specification journey. Trust your product/material to pique the interest of your prospects and nurture your relationship with them at every step of the specification journey, from interest to installation.



A Virtual Lunch and Learn



Susan Milne

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.