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If you are a building-product manufacturer that has had a request for material samples from an architect through Architizer, you’re already well on the way to succeeding. An architect will only reach out for samples if they are seriously considering one of your products for their project, so you are firmly on their radar. This is a crucial moment in the life cycle of a sale: Architects are visual, tactile people, and samples can inform their decisions around specifications perhaps more than anything else. So, what should manufacturers keep in mind as they prepare their package of samples to send to an architect? The following steps can help guide the way.
Architectural sample box; via Cirque Distribution
1. First, ask “why?”
This may seem like an obvious question, but it’s vital for a manufacturer to ask it each time that an architect requests a sample. The answer can help inform exactly which samples you choose to send, and what information you choose to package with it.
For example, perhaps you are a manufacturer of pavers and an architect is considering your product for the area outside the entrance of a hospital they are designing. The specific requirements of the project will influence which of your product offerings may be most appropriate. Perhaps the pavers need to be hard-wearing enough to handle the load of hospital trolleys as well as pedestrian traffic, or maybe they need to be textured in a manner that allows visually impaired people to identify the location of the building’s entrance.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important to understand the full context of an architect’s project as you decide which choice of samples to send them. Providing samples that are specific to their design needs shows them that you are listening to them, and will increase the likelihood of your product appearing on their project spec sheet.
Boston Valley Terra Cotta packages its samples in an attractive box and highlights the availability of more products beyond its standard range with the message “standard colors are just the start”; via OtherWisz Creative.
2. Pick your products.
Once you understand the context of an architect’s project, you can select samples of products that will be most relevant to the architect in question. They are likely to have requested samples for specific products or materials, so it’s most important to supply them with those and any supplementary information they need to make their decision.
That said, this may also be an opportunity to introduce the architect to a new, innovative product that has not yet been used in a real-world project. If you have a new product or material that could form an improved solution for the architect, a beautiful sample or well-placed piece of literature might just get them to think outside the box and specify something new. If you decide to go down this route, make sure to communicate the reason behind the additional sample or alternative product offering so that they fully understand the aesthetic or performance-related advantages it could bring to their project.
A prototype of a sample box for salvaged hardwood surfaces; via Daniel Heath Sufaces
3. Perfect your packaging.
The first thing to take care of when packaging your samples is protection. In order for architects to understand the qualities of your project, the samples need to arrive in one piece, minus scuff marks or dents. Send them in a sturdy box and the necessary padding to ensure they get to their destination in mint condition.
After this, it’s time to get creative. Think about how your packaging reflects your brand, how it acts as a graphic representation of your company’s values and a product’s qualities. Perhaps the box could feature an image of a stunning architectural project in which your building-product takes center stage. Inside, perhaps you could include a foldout portfolio that shows how each sample translates into a full-scale project.
Creative packaging offers a way to add value beyond the samples themselves — use this great opportunity to help architects see the full potential of your product. Don’t forget the basics, though — make sure to include all the technical information that an architect needs to insert your product into their spec sheets.
A sample box for resin wall panels; via Kinon Surface Design
4. Budget wisely.
Apart from exceptional circumstances, building-product manufacturers should never charge architects for samples — such a move risks them looking to your competitors and jeopardizes your chances of getting your products seen. That said, it can be expensive to send them out — depending on your sector, heavy samples might entail high shipping costs, or you may need to send multiple packages to ensure architects have all the options at hand to make their specifying decisions.
Allot a budget for samples that allows you to distribute them in a sustainable way. Consider customizing your sample offerings for different geographic regions — you can get samples to local architecture firms for a lower cost, while international firms should be treated differently. Whatever you do, plan ahead — estimate how many samples you will need to send based on your business projections, and create your packages ahead of time.
Tactile Materials sample box; via Architectural Materials
5. Turn samples into business.
Once your samples have been sent out, make sure to follow up and ask for the architect’s feedback. Whether or not your product or material is selected, you can garner crucial feedback that will help you identify which of your range is most valuable to your business. During your courtesy call or in your follow-up email, ask the architect what they thought of the key qualities of product, and whether they would like any more samples to help them make their final decision.
If they do not select your product on this occasion, encourage them to keep your samples in their material library — this helps your brand maintain a visual presence that acts as a convenient resource for architects throughout a firm. When the right project comes along, architects will always be grateful to be able to select something from their library over a brand-new product, as it saves them the time and trouble of ordering fresh samples from another company.
So, there you have it — a humble sample really can turn into a big commission. Apart from the tips described above, be timely in sending your packages out, and with your follow-up communications. Time is likely the most precious commodity for architects — save them some and you’ll get yourself in their good books, permanently!
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