Construction CPD seminars are a proactive way to introduce your construction company and products. CPD has the great benefit of opening doors, making contact with several construction specifiers at one time and prompting a discussion about a specific construction project opportunity.
Technical advice is the key reason why a specifier will pursue a relationship with a construction product manufacturer. We asked Rachel Ward for her recommendations on how best to approach CPD, so that both the construction product manufacturer and the specifier benefit. Rachel heads the research team at Competitive Advantage and has a wealth of knowledge in specification sales, marketing and product management.
Q: Why are CPD seminars important for construction professionals?
Professional bodies such as RIBA and CIBSE require their members to make an annual minimum CPD commitment to maintain their professional status. For example, architects and engineers need to ensure they remain up to date with latest practices and solutions. Technical CPD seminars are an ideal way to do this.
The CPD Certification Service states: “Engaging in Continuing Professional Development ensures that both academic and practical qualifications do not become out-dated or obsolete; allowing individuals to continually ‘up skill’ or ‘re-skill’ themselves, regardless of occupation, age or educational level.”
Keeping up to date with regulations, legislation, innovations in construction techniques and new products is a minefield for construction professionals. The adoption of Building Information Modelling, how it is changing the construction supply landscape and the drive for a sustainable built environment are just some of the topics construction specifiers need to keep ahead on. CPD is one of the ways they can keep informed.
Q: Why should the manufacturer offer CPD?
CPD is a vital tool in educating construction professionals and for developing relationships with them. It provides an opportunity to show how your products deliver solutions to design, legislation, sustainability, logistic and on-site challenges for example.
For the construction product manufacturer, CPD provides an ideal opportunity to raise their profile among specifiers, to demonstrate expertise, to present the case in favour of their products whilst explaining how they work. For the individual presenting the CPD, it’s also an opportunity to engage with construction decision makers and discuss projects, establishing themselves as the expert, the Trusted Advisor.
Q: What should be avoided when providing CPD?
Content has to be impartial, technical, factual, professional and relevant. Selling should be avoided at all costs. Specifiers want to learn about construction products, systems and techniques without being sold to. The CPD accreditation bodies actively discourage it. CPD seminars can raise the awareness of your construction products in the mind of the specifier and ensure they understand key, sometimes unique, performance criteria.
At Competitive Advantage we work very hard with our clients to understand the features and benefits of their products and then ensure they are explained within the technical body. A well written seminar presents sales points in a subtle manner.
Heavy, dry technical content should be avoided. Although the seminar needs to be technically accurate it also needs to be engaging. Create a story around your presentation to make it pertinent to the audience, rehearse delivery and avoid it being too scripted. And don’t just let the audience sit there inert! Challenge and involve them.
Q: Is the technical team best placed to write the CPD? Or should it be marketing or sales?
As you may present to a highly creative audience, it is important that the CPD seminar follows all the rules for a visually good presentation. But a CPD seminar requires more than good design. It needs well thought out substance.
We work with companies to first identify the right subject, then involve the technical team to get the facts. Often the seminar will start life in a very dry and wordy form. The next step is to re-present the technical content in a succinct and engaging way. This can be done in conjunction with a design agency, so long as key messages are not lost.
Further information on the process of creating effective CPD can be found on our website. It takes time and resource to carefully craft your CPD. The creation of an effective construction product CPD is very much a team effort between technical, marketing and sales.
Q: What can be done to make sure your get your seminar subject noticed?
Firstly, the seminar needs to be relevant to the interests and concerns of the specifier. It should aim for some form of uniqueness in the subject matter and have a title that makes people want to know more.
The accreditation body you use will publicise your seminar but you should also promote it. Have details available for download from your website, issue a press release about your new seminar and also encourage those who have attended to tweet about it.
And remember it is not only the architect that requires CPD. Broaden the base to whom you market your seminar. Consider other decision makers and influencers such as engineers, interior designers, surveyors etc.
Q: Would you recommend delivering online CPD, so reaching a wider audience at a cheaper cost?
Online is a useful option allowing you to reach out to a wider audience, requiring less sales resource for delivery and giving flexibility for viewing. But I would encourage face-to-face delivery at practices that are important to you, as it provides an opportunity to build relationships and become the Trusted Advisor.
You need to consider this option as part of your specification strategy. Research your target market and understand which customers are of most importance to you. That way you can prioritise in-house seminars for key practices and offer online seminars to others.
Q: Does the CPD seminar have to be accredited?
It is not absolutely necessary, but it helps considerably. Third party accreditation acts as a quality mark. It assures the CPD coordinator of the professional nature of the seminar and that they are not signing their colleagues up for a hard-sell.
Q: Who should deliver the CPD?
I recommend that the technical sales person for the product delivers the seminar, as it establishes them as the Trusted Advisor, which should encourage future enquiries. Some companies have a dedicated person for CPD delivery. Whilst this might be resource efficient, it can belittle the role of the sales contact, who may subliminally be projected as non-technical. Whoever delivers, they need to be technically competent, familiar with the seminar, product confident and trained in presentation skills.
Q: What should not be forgotten when delivering a CPD?
Remember that delivering the seminar is not the end of the process, but the start. Whether a means to opening a door or a bridge to improving relationships, you need to define a series of follow-up actions to ensure that you get the maximum return from the visit and to create opportunities. This will allow you to maximise and measure the return you get from your investment.
Case study: Delivering CPD to architects