Building Services Engineers are a key influencer when specification selling an array of products. This key decision maker is in charge of designing, installing and maintaining a number of services within the building’s interior. In general, the building services engineer will write a performance specification. But where there are challenging problems he may well nominate a product, and when this happens it is likely to stay firm.
To get your product nominated you need to demonstrate the importance and significance of your product and its role in the operation of a building. How can it contribute to better operation, save energy costs, improving the buildings environment or extend the operational life of the building. First you must find a way of getting the Building Services Engineer’s attention so that you can demonstrate the key product benefits, so which communication channels are best? Online methods are increasingly accepted, but companies need to ensure they present the appropriate information in an easy to access format and keep in touch with new developments. At the same time do not neglect the traditional media such as magazines and literature, they still have an important role to play.
Our recent research, Construction Media Index, identifies key hardcopy and electronic media used by Building Service Engineers, as well as the trade titles actually read. In this Blog post we interview Tina Cardy, Head of Communications at the Chartered Institute of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE) on the topic Communicating with Building Services Engineers and the best channels of communication to use.
Q: With a significant drop in the usage of product directories what would you say are the most helpful tools for Building Services Engineers seeking product information, both online and off?
Most people’s lives are heavily influenced by the web so anyone researching anything pretty much starts with Google. From a marketing perspective this means of course that manufacturers must have a robust digital and SEO strategy.
Securing a leading position for specific and targeted keywords will be essential in driving traffic, and visitors expect to be guided to the relevant part of a website based upon what they have searched for. Once linked to a website the site must be easy to navigate to find relevant information, technical detail and even who to contact.
Documentation and information should be easy to find and simple to access. Choose carefully which content you decide to ask people to register for as this can become a barrier to engagement.
However it’s important that information is available in a format most suited to your customer needs. For example our CIBSE guides and manuals are available as hardcopy and, with the introduction of The Knowledge Portal, members can search and download the full range of CIBSE published guidance. Having set up the CIBSE Knowledge Portal last year we’ve already received 40,000 visits. But what’s important is that people are receiving information in the format that fits their need.
Q: With a significant proportion of Building Services Engineers using Social Media for work and also subscribing regularly to trade journals, how would you see these communication channels being utilised by the specification salesman?
Trade journals are and will continue to be used for headline ‘news’ of new products and developments: with the detail still being obtained from websites or product literature.
There has certainly been some evidence of the growth of social media in building services. The CIBSE LinkedIn Group has grown rapidly in recent months to near 6,000 members but I’d like to see real evidence of use of Social Media to assist actual product specification. LinkedIn may be useful for contacts and occasional discussions on technical subjects, and Twitter can be effective for driving traffic to websites. But how many busy engineers have time to follow more than a handful of social media communications, and how regularly?
Not many of us enjoy unsolicited approaches by sales people so the use of social media is no different in this regard. Providing information to help the specifier is always a way forward so for example joining technical and construction groups on Linkedin are a good way to watch and only take part when you have something worthwhile to add e.g. not to be brand specific. Recommendations from peers which is often what social media is about, has far more gravitas than a direct sell.
Q: According to our Construction Media Index research a third of Building Services Engineers are already using BIM how do you see this influencing working methods and in particular product specification?
There’s no doubt that BIM will be used on government and major projects, and percolate down to smaller projects. Right now, everyone’s trying to work out exactly what will be required and how it will work.
The use of BIM will mean that specifications will be harder to break within the chain and if specific products are specified at a higher level in the BIM process then Building Services Engineers will need robust reasons to change. BIM may also require slightly more input from services engineers early in the design process.
However, BIM should in the future provide asset owners and operators with much more complete records of a building’s specification, allowing engineers to identify what is required to carry out repairs and routine maintenance without a great deal of investigation into what was originally specified, and with systems diagrams and part numbers and other operational details being available from the BIM model.
More about Tina Cardy and CIBSE
CIBSE is a professional institution with 20,000 members. Our members work throughout building services to improve the performance of buildings. CIBSE provides guidance and information to help them undertake this work more effectively. www.cibse.org
Tina Cardy manages new developments and the strategic planning of new campaigns, marketing and communications initiatives for both CIBSE and CIBSE Services alongside a team of 6.
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