An Untapped Market

August 4th, 2021 by Bryan

How You Too Can Court Architects and Designers

By Gregg McKay

It’s not a secret in the window film industry. For those of us who work in architectural window film applications, the biggest potential market for our product and services lies with architects and designers. If you can get in on the ground floor, you can put yourself on the map and gain not just a single job, but potentially a partnership for more work. If done right—if you sell the benefits of film as well as your skills, and then back it up with proof of both—you can create a whole new level of salesforce. A client who is happy with your work will then tell others. Yet, making that first connection can be daunting. So how do you do it?

Tapping into the Market

The secret is knowing that licensed architects must earn continuing education credits every year to fulfill American Institute of Architect (AIA) membership requirements. Some architects also need continuing education for state licensing.

There are roughly 109,748 architects and 71,700 interior designers in the United States. That’s a lot of potential partners who allneed training. Many don’t know about the window film industry, and those who do might not have accurate information.

What’s this got to do with you? Well you, become the expert. Offer your local architectural and design firms continuing education credits based on the benefits that window film can offer and start the conversation. You can set it up as a “Lunch-and-Learn” or any other similar event, with a presentation that provides 1.00 AIA Learning Unit (LU) and immediately, you’re making connections with people who can bring you in from the start of a project. See page 20 for examples of how to promote this.

There’s a catch, though: for AIA members to receive credit, a certified presenter has to facilitate the event. Individual window film dealers can’t just lead a lunch and learn by themselves. So get to know your manufacturer’s representative, and  build a strong working relationship with them. Let them know you’re interested in this type of marketing adventure. They may even have ideas of local companies for you to contact.

Go Big or Go Home

You might be wondering how you get an audience with them. You can start by opening your local newspaper or even taking a drive around your town. Look for ongoing projects in your area. If there are signs up promoting the companies involved, take note of which builders and designers are listed. You can also check out building permits if those are public record. The goal is to find out which companies are doing work in your area, and then research them. In fact, don’t limit yourself to architects and designers. Construction, glass and window covering companies are all industries that could benefit from continuing educational credits. Check out company websites and learn their portfolios. How big are they? What kind of projects do they generally get involved in?

Don’t ever hesitate to go after the big companies first. They’re more likely to have more people to train and more projects working at any given time. It may also be easier to  get in with a bigger company first.

Then approach them in person and find out if they offer Lunch-and-Learn opportunities to their team and who sets those up. If the company has a history of holding learning opportunities for their staff on campus, ask if they would be interested in learning about window films. If the company hasn’t done this in the past, you can present the advantages. Offer up the benefits, including learning credits that come to them, training multiple staff members at one time, etc.

If a Lunch and Learn isn’t your thing, or if a company doesn’t seem sold on the idea, don’t let that stop you from pitching it. I’ve hosted a successful showcase/table walk demonstration that was held first thing in the morning. The architects could have breakfast, get coffee, and learn about window film. There was a solar film station with a heat demo, a decorative film station with samples and brochures, and a security station —there are plenty of videos available on the Internet if you or your rep doesn’t have one already on hand.

Free food is a great way to bring people in to an event, so it wouldn’t hurt to include it.

Make it So

When the conversation turns to scheduling, it is time to dig a little deeper. How many of the staff members generally attend? Is there a favorite choice of food? Find out where you’ll be making your presentation and what kind of audio/visual system they have (TV, projector, etc.). What does seating look like, and is there room for food and sample books, or will you need a second area? If you’re worried about people only coming for the food, set up a design that requires them to visit stations or get their food after they’ve entered the “arena,” so to speak.

When you’ve got a company ready to schedule a Lunch-and-Learn with you, that’s the time to loop in your manufacturer’s representative again.

Lunch-and-Learns often are scheduled at least a month out, sometimes more, which gives you plenty of time to make sure everything is ready. Check out the checklist of things to do in the last week leading up to the event at left.

After Party

Getting it scheduled is only part of the battle, and it doesn’t end once you’ve made it through the event. Just as important to the entire equation is the follow up. To ensure they keep your company name fresh in their minds as they go back to their projects, follow up individually with each person who attended. To do so you can exchange business cards, or have a sign-in sheet for all attendees. Make yourself available for samples. Answer any technical questions to help them spec the right film. Touch base with them about any new products and offer to drop by so they can see the samples firsthand. Remember that networking is about building good relationships with individuals. That applies to all business relationships. A good relationship will lead to a person carrying your card with them when they move to new firms.

And when–not if, but when–they hire you to do a job, make sure you’re on top of your game. Back up what you’ve been selling them with a top-notch job and the customer service to match. Architects and designers will use you again and refer you to others if they have had a good experience with your company.

Last but not least, always, always, always, treat them like professionals. They are, and so are you.

Example Invitation

Ready to pitch a Lunch-and-Learn or other similar event to an architectural or building company? Not sure what to say? Language such as this can get you started:

Continuing Education Opportunities: Course Descriptions:

XYZ Manufacturer is an AIA/CES Approved Provider. Attendees will receive 1.00 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Learning Unit (LU), with Health Safety and Wellness (HSW) and Sustainable Design (SD) options as noted below. We will provide a qualified speaker, a 45-60 minute presentation, and lunch for attendees (other meals can be arranged).

Innovations in Window Films for Architectural Applications -1LU-HSW, SD

This course provides an overview of the various types of window films available – solar control, low-E, safety and security and decorative films. Understand how your next project can gain from the features and benefits that quality window films provide. Learn how to specify window films for increased energy savings, comfort (heat and glare control), privacy, safety and fade protection. Advanced technologies in window film, applicable case studies, and available LEED credits are also covered. This course is also approved for continuing education credit by the Interior Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC).

Lunch and Learn Preparation Timeline Checklist

You’ve got it on the books! Great job! Now you need to make sure it goes smoothly.

One week prior, work on the headcount and start getting folders and samples made up.

Review for yourself what jobs they have done or are doing. You can use their projects as examples during the Lunch-and-Learn.

Two days before, confirm the headcount and place the food order to be delivered. Make sure that you meet everyone’s nutritional needs and requirements, plus order one or two extra.

On the day of the event make sure you give yourself plenty of time for parking, walking and setting up. Make sure the audio visual equipment is working and the lunch is there. Your rep should be able to just walk in and be ready to go.

Let your contact know that you are ready to start.

Greet everyone as they come in and let them get their food and find a seat.

Let the rep do their job and be ready to answer any questions that are directed your way—mainly pricing, jobs and other questions

Gregg McKay has been in the window film industry for 33 years. He launched his current company, Nu-Vue, in 2008. You can hear McKay speak at the International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ 2019 which will be held September 4-6 in Indianapolis, Ind.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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