By Lee Jones, Head of Manufacturer Solutions, NBS
The corona crisis has caused many firms to shut down production and furlough staff. Many architects and engineers are on leave too. Yet construction sites are opening up again and the shutdown won’t last forever. There’s are practical ways to ensure you can maintain market share, even in these uncertain times.
If many of the designers you know have been furloughed, you may think what’s the point?
Most specifiers are members of professional bodies such as RIBA and their membership won’t lapse just because they’re not at work. They’re required to continue to keep their skills up-to-date through continuing professional development (CPD). That said there are many professionals still working, yet with a bit more time to focus on themselves. We’ve seen webinar attendance soar as people focus on learning and sharpening their skills.
Specifiers are still hungry to hear about the latest innovations, see inspirational projects and understand the technical detail. As a manufacturer, it’s a great opportunity to remain relevant.
If you’ve got an in-practice CPD programme, now’s the time to re-work it for remote delivery. If you haven’t, now’s the time to develop one.
Not only will presenting remotely be a healthier option, but there are also a lot of benefits to having an e-CPD programme that will remain when the world opens up again. They include being able to reach architects across the UK and beyond, greater efficiencies as travel time is removed and practices can schedule sessions to suit them. You can keep pre-recorded content fresh by bringing in live Q&A sessions. For specific guidance, there’s this webinar from Joni Tyler, Head of CPD at RIBA.
Beyond CPD make sure you and your team are in contact with specifiers you know personally to find out how they’re finding things. It’s a worrying time so a human touch is welcomed, especially one that’s without an overt sales message.
If you normally share project inspiration on social, keep on doing this, making sure you’re tagging the relevant designers. Again, people are spending more time online so keep front-of-mind.
Its spring and now’s the time for a digital clean. As customer orders may have slowed, use the downtime to audit your specifier-facing assets. Are they up-to-date and consistent? Last year NBS did a joint study with the Construction Product Association (CPA). This confirmed that, like everyone else, specifiers start their product research by looking online. If you google your products what happens? Can this be improved?
Specifiers also want to get information in digital formats, including as BIM objects. If you don’t have your complete range in this format, now is the time to get any gaps plugged.
Get ready for new regulation
This will impact on construction product manufacturers, and now is the time to prepare for it. The government published the outline reform for the building regulations on 02nd April and you can read a summary from NBS here. This will have a direct impact on window manufacturers, especially around product information. The requirements will be for standardised formats, with detailed performance data as well as providing third-party accredited performance data. This is so that it is easier for specifiers to make an informed choice and compare similar products with ease.
Tools such as NBS Source, are available to support manufacturers in getting their product information in shape.
If your supply chain has been impacted by the corona shut down, your organisation has probably been focused on the operational challenges. Once these have been sorted, it’s time to think about your product information. How have your products changed? Will any component swap impact on performance? Do you need to get testing re-done so it’s accurate? Remember there is new regulation coming and it will have real teeth.
Pricing and promotional strategy – With the possibility that we are heading into a recession and the uncertainty of knowinghow long or how deep that may be. In times of uncertainty it’s easy to cut marketing spend and resort to bargain-basement pricing. Yet, this may not be the best approach. Mark Ritson, the marketing professor, stated in his recent speech on marketing in the COVID-19 era that looking back over recessions in the past century, brands that maintained or increased their advertising spend, increased their market share.
If you’ve invested in creating a quality brand, then don’t rush to deep discounting. Think about other ways that you can demonstrate value or run promotions. Remember in the last recession where people would only eat at Pizza Express with a voucher. The promotional price became normalised.
Yet, there are always opportunities. How can you pivot? This may mean innovation around your product. Perhaps you make doors for high-end residential properties. What adjustments would you need to do to create suitable options for hospitals or social housing?
While it’s an unsettling time there are ways that you can keep ahead of the game.