If you are a building products manufacturer (BPM) and architects have an influence on the purchase decision of your products, you have some understanding of the architect market and what makes them tick. And if your brand has identified the architect as a primary target audience, you’ll likely have an in-depth database of this audience – a list of key architectural firms, architect’s names in your database, and a sales team with established relationships with architects who have used and/or considered your brand.
Maybe your marketing team even developed a target persona identifying the characteristics of the decision-maker of the architectural firm; something like this – a confident, 40-something hard-working partner in the firm who yearns for recognition by peers, clients, and the community for impactful designs and solutions.
But how many BPM brands have the millennial architect on their radar? This architect segment is playing a far greater role in their firms today than ever before, and their influence is having a real impact on how products and brands get chosen for a building project.
I spoke with LarsonO’Brien’s CMO and director of account services, Dave Sladack, who works with BPMs every day to create accurate and actionable personas. He explains eight key factors that come into play when it comes to developing strong relationships with millennial architects:
1. Pure size
“Millennials currently make up the largest generation in the workforce,” says Sladack. “According to Pew Research, Millennials made up 35% of the U.S. workforce in 2016, and that percentage is expected to quickly grow as more Baby Boomers reach retirement.”
“Millennials are the highest-educated generation to-date. And many are in the infancy of their careers,” Sladack adds. “The result is a smart, affordable employee who can research and identify products and new ideas quickly, accurately and at a lower cost than giving it to a higher-salaried architect or estimator to uncover. And with a large millennial population available, firms can invest in a stronger bottom-up talent pool to reduce costs while adding resources.”
3. Digital Natives
“Millennials grew up using technology. It’s a natural part of their life and they rely on it for just about everything. On the job, they can quickly identify and source ideas. They are comfortable – and competent – using search tools and are active in social media where platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and Houzz are sources of inspiration,” says Sladack.
4. Their Nature
“Millennials are a loud generation. Like their Baby Boomer parents, they want to be heard,” adds Sladack. “They are results-oriented, seek meaningful work, desire to make an impact and want to do it quickly. They expect a fast promotion and will communicate to their managers about it often. Ultimately, they wish to be self-employed and seek fast-track stepping stones to get there.”
The role of the young architect is clearly increasing. According to the 2017 Summary Research Findings from Architect magazine, the millennial architect is a tech savvy researcher who identifies product and design possibilities via imagery and drawings online. A deeper look suggests the millennial architect can be segmented into two age groups:
- The Apprentice: 24-30 years old. Young, inexperienced and not far removed from college. They are still learning their way around the firm and looking for ways to contribute in more of a support role. According to Architect, they use the internet over an in-house library and are tasked with finding design inspiration, detail images and drawings online. Influencing this segment is critical as they are often charged with sourcing products and brands early in the design process.
- The Striver: 31-38 years old. Becoming increasingly responsible for actual project design and overall architectural plans and specifications. This millennial segment experienced and approaching middle-age and these architects are developing into key decision-maker for the firm and its clients. They too are heavy digital users.
Recognizing that the millennial architect is changing the game at their firms, how does a BPM effectively reach and influence them toward the brand?
5. Digital Delivery
“BPMs need to provide content and information to the millennial architect in a digital format,” Sladack says. “This means a BPM’s brand must have a rich digital ecosystem with its brand present in the channels the millennial architect is using for discovery and inspiration.”
6. Quick & Easy UX
Sladack suggests, “Make it quick and easy to find and access materials. Downloads and sharing should be easy and utilize visual-oriented content frequently. Infuse the experience with emerging technology like virtual reality to make the experience more engaging.”
“Provide a strong mobile-friendly responsive website – after-all, this segment consumes much of their information from their phone,” adds Sladack. “Use the Google Micro Moments Mantra – Be There. Be Quick. Be Useful.”
8. Core Values
According to Sladack, “Millennial architects are inspired by solutions that are sustainable, resilient and that lessen the environmental footprint. They have an altruistic streak but are also charged by the senior leadership in the firm to identify high-performing, reliable building solutions. Demonstrating building materials that do both will get the millennial architect recognized by their firm’s senior management; while getting your BPM on the preferred vendor list.”