The First Step to Getting Specified: Define Your Sandbox

Getting Specified - Define Your Sandbox

The building industry is rapidly changing, impacting how specifiers choose products and materials. Specifiers are tasked with creating measurable spaces, countering the impact of the labor shortage, processing the seemingly endless feed of new products entering the market, and continually finding efficiencies in how they work. Building material and architectural product companies that want to stay relevant have sales and marketing teams that help specifiers navigate this change.

Although there is no single formula or set of tactics every company can easily apply to grow sales, there is a straightforward process. If you want to clear a path to increasing specifications, there are seven fundamental steps every business should take. In this post we are going to focus on the first one: Defining your position in the marketplace. Why? Because if you want to grow sales, you must know what makes your product valuable to specifiers in the first place.

Find Your Niche

Businesses are often scared to find their niche. The fear is that by being too narrow in focus, manufacturers risk losing sales. It is tempting to want to be all things for all customers, but there are problems with this generalist approach. For one, it’s difficult to convince your customers that you’re great at everything, because they’ve heard that empty promise before, and they aren’t buying it. More importantly, there are so many businesses making that broad claim, they are all easily forgotten.

So our first task in establishing sales and marketing strategies is to define a unique position in the marketplace. To hone in on the essentials, there are three key questions to answer first.

What problem do you solve?

Building material companies are focused on their products. They are focused on designing them, manufacturing them, selling them, shipping them, installing them, and fixing them. So if your business makes doors, you spend countless hours a week talking about doors. When someone asks you what your business does, what do you say? Well, that’s easy. You say, “We sell doors.”

Believe it or not, that’s the wrong answer. Sure, it’s accurate. But it’s focused on what you spent your week working on, and not what your clients spent their week working on. Specifiers aren’t buying doors for the sake of buying doors. No, they are looking to deliver security to their clients. And ultimately, that’s what we’re selling.

Where do you compete?

So now that you are clear on what you are selling, you can further define your company by establishing where you sell your goods. If you’re a huge global business, perhaps you could make best-in-class doors for every scenario. Most likely that isn’t the case. Most likely the majority of your clients are in specific industries. That’s important to know because security needs for a senior living facility are very different than hospitality. Some businesses are focused on a specific region, so that narrows things down too. Project size may also be a defining factor. Are your products best suited for large-scale projects or smaller/boutique executions?

Why are you different?

Finally, there’s the thing we marketing agencies crave in our clients. We want to know what really sets you apart. Has your business been doing this longer than the competition? Do you have a deep off-the-shelf catalog that can be delivered quickly? Is there something unique about the materials you use? Do you offer a service that is noteworthy? These nuances are key in standing apart from your competition.

Developing a Positioning Statement

Once you have answered those basic questions, it’s helpful to develop a “positioning statement.” A positioning statement is marketing lingo for what is essentially a succinct description of your business. It notes your target market, how you want that market to perceive your company, and why they should choose you. It expresses how your product or service fills a particular need in a way that your competition does not. It’s the bedrock of your marketing; the lodestar that guides your efforts and focuses your strategy.

Here’s a basic framework to help you get started:

Positioning statement structure

The structure of your positioning statement doesn’t need to adhere to this template exactly, but it should contain these five main components.

  1. Target definition/customer group

  2. Brand name

  3. Competitive frame of reference

  4. Point of differentiation

  5. Reasons to believe (at least three)

Here is a sample statement using a fictional company that makes doors. We have numbered each of the five components.

To (1) architects and designers in the hospitality industry, (2) ABC is the only (3) door manufacturer that (4) provides solutions for designers seeking to create spaces that are beautiful, soundproof and private. That’s because (5) our doors are designed to significantly reduce sound transfer from exterior corridors; they have four mechanisms that are triggered by guests to make them more secure; and they are available in more colors and finishes than the competition’s.

TIP: Make sure your frame of reference, point of differentiation, and reasons to believe are authentic, connected, and compelling to your customers—not just your company.


What makes a strong positioning statement?

  1. It’s straightforward, memorable, and fine-tuned to your target market.

  2. It provides a clear, conclusive, and unmistakable snapshot of your company that differentiates you from your competitors.

  3. It’s believable and wholehearted, and your company can deliver on its promise.

  4. Your company can be the sole proprietor of this particular position in the market. You can “own” the space.

  5. It’s a litmus test for your marketing decisions; an evaluative tool that helps you determine if your marketing decisions are aligned with and supportive of your brand.

  6. It allows for growth.

Before you spend any money marketing building materials, it is crucial that you define your sandbox by identifying why you’re different and what your ideal sale looks look, and then hone in on the specifiers that can bring you success.


You’ve just read about the first step. Download the complete guide!
Demystifying Marketing: Seven Steps to Get Specified


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.