3 Reasons Why Your AIA Education Course is a Waste Of Money
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Building product manufacturers need to invest their marketing dollars wisely. Manufacturers with limited budgets and a small staff need to ensure that they get the best return on their investment. Developing an AIA education course can be an expensive endeavor for a manufacturer. Avoiding certain pitfalls and maximizing investment is crucial. There are three critical mistakes that building product manufacturers need to avoid to not waste their money.
PDF: The Worst Delivery Format
If the primary delivery format for your AIA education course is a PDF, your company is in trouble. We’ve discussed this critical mistake in an earlier blog. The Portable Document Format or PDF, was released over twenty-five years ago. Using a PDF as your primary delivery format is a strategic blunder when you are trying to get specified. Education platforms that utilize PDFs as their primary format have significantly less participation by architects, spec writers, and other design professionals. There are many reasons which we will review.
Architects don’t like to jump through hoops to obtain information. Common mistakes that building product manufacturers make include hiding their 3-part guide specs, Health Product Declarations (HPDs), BIM, and other resources behind a firewall which forces the architect jump through hoops and waste billable time. If your online AIA CE course is not immediately available, you are putting one more obstacle between you and the architect. Users typically need to download the PDF and read the document like a newspaper article. This antiquated process does manufacturers no favors. While a PDF may be utilized effectively as an additional resource for an online AIA course, such as a white paper or case study, solely utilizing the PDF format as the primary distribution method is an ill-advised strategy.
PDFs have several limitations as a delivery format for an AIA online education course. Older PDFs may use media embedded in them that will not play on architect’s devices such as an i-Pad tablet. Rich Media PDFs will not operate in Apple's iOS devices such as the iPad and interactivity is limited. Another concern are viruses in PDF attachments which were first discovered in 2001.
Architects, spec writers, interior designers, and other professionals appreciate online AIA courses that utilize 21st century tools. Most PDF AIA education courses fail to garner much interest because they rely on pages saturated with heavy text and bullet points while offering few images of products. Architects want to learn about a product by participating in a well written and visually appealing course, not a 60-page PDF overflowing with mountains of text and bad clip art. PDFs also fail to take advantage of the best tools available such as video clips and audio narration. Video courses often perform 3 to 5 times better than PDF and traditional PPT courses. Typical industry participation for online courses is 50-75 participants per month. To compare, we can look at a course by the Copper Development Association which was launched in November 2012 and on average had 259 participants per month. The total number of participants for the course for year one was 3,109.
The PDF is the equivalent of a printed newspaper page in machine reproducible form. It's barely one step up from a JPEG image. Interactivity is limited which means there are less tools to use to educate architects about your products. This is bad for your brand. Surprisingly, AIA education provider AEC Daily still uses this outdated delivery format as their primary distribution tool. Everyone has probably heard of ‘death by PowerPoint’. I can assure you that ‘death by PDF’ is even worse. Building product manufacturers would be wise to invest in a much more effective delivery format than the antiquated and inferior PDF.
Professional Photography Is Essential
Building product manufacturers can’t afford to feature low quality images in their presentation. How many presentations have been ruined by crummy images, poorly lit shots, and blurry product snapshots? Your team may have written the greatest AIA presentation in history but if the product photos are of poor quality, your endeavor was a waste of time and money.
Stock photography has its place in AIA presentations, but hiring a professional photographer or videographer can make a world of difference. Stock images can be used by anyone and everyone and the stock image you selected may even end up in your competitor’s presentation! Great photography sells more products. In side by side comparisons, most consumers choose brands with great photography over products with mediocre imagery.
Would you trust the janitor at your building to perform open heart surgery on a patient? Then why would you let your forklift operator use an i-Phone to shoot all the photos in your dimly lit factory? It doesn’t make sense. Nothing says amateur like a poorly-lit photograph of a building product. Building product manufacturers want architects, spec writers, and contractors to trust them and to trust that they run a professional shop. If your building product images are lousy, maybe your products or customer service are too.
Professional video services are highly recommended for installation tutorials, product demonstrations, case studies, and interviews. Video can take your online AIA course to the next level. As we noted in an earlier blog, video allows architects to expand their understanding of complex subjects by strengthening the link between abstract ideas and practical applications. Several years ago, Cisco, the networking equipment manufacturer, released a significant study on video education. The research revealed several important benefits related to video education. Video gives architects the opportunity to travel to remote locations to learn without ever leaving their classroom. Videos are uniquely suited for taking architects on “impossible” field trips, such as a tour inside a new net zero LEED Platinum building project in New Zealand. Online AIA and GBCI courses that utilize video have the highest participation rates in the industry. Courses such as Cultivating Young Minds: A Net-Zero School for Tomorrow’s Leaders have several thousand participants and excellent reviews.
While shooting your kid’s soccer game with your smart phone might be all right to show the family, that same approach won’t work for shooting professional videos about your products. Just because your cousin Jimmy bought a $2000 video camera from Best Buy, that doesn’t make him a globe-trotting National Geographic photographer. Great photos will help create a great AIA education course. Investing in a professional photographer to capture your building products is a solid investment, without professional images your AIA course is a waste of time and money.
Building product manufacturers should maximize their investment when developing an AIA continuing education course by ensuring that it is eligible for all three delivery methods: online, face to face, and webinars. Continuing Education is the most effective method for a building product manufacturer to get the most time in front of design professionals. Therefore, when creating an AIA CE course, it is crucial that the course is developed in a universal format that allows for all three delivery formats.
For example, an AIA course developed strictly in an ineffective PDF format has very limited potential for reaching architects, spec writers, and other design professionals. The PDF can’t be used as a face to face course or a webinar. This mistake eliminates 66% of the delivery methods to reach architects. A universal format maximizes a building product manufacturer’s investment so that they reach the largest amount of decision makers.
Webinars are one of the most cost effective marketing tools a building product manufacturer can utilize. Webinars offer more benefits in one hour than any other sales and marketing program. How many marketing programs do you know of that can educate 200-350 architects, specifiers, contractors, and engineers in one hour? Webinars should be an essential part of every product manufacturer’s sales and marketing program. Building product manufacturers who are not utilizing webinars to deliver their AIA course are missing the boat and one heck of an opportunity to reach the decision makers. Webinars allow manufacturers to collect lead information – from email addresses to market survey data.
AIA webinars benefit building product manufacturers in several ways. Hosting an AIA webinar allows your company to showcase its expertise, industry knowledge, skills, and building products. Webinars help create business relationships and help you understand your target audience. Traditional AIA lunch and learns and trade show conferences have one thing in common – they’re expensive to arrange. Feeding 200-300 architects for an AIA lunch and learn is cost prohibitive and would probably wipe out your marketing budget for the year. Webinars allow building product manufacturers a cost-effective way to educate 200-300 architects without having to provide lunch and spend money on travel. AIA webinars are a no-brainer for any building product manufacturer who wants to increase product specifications. Companies who only develop an AIA course in a single format, and forgo AIA webinars are wasting precious marketing dollars and not meeting their potential.
In conclusion, we can identify three key areas where building product manufacturers can improve their marketing outreach via an AIA course: avoid the PDF format as the primary form for AIA courses, hire a professional photographer/videographer to create high quality media, and develop an AIA course that can be delivered as a webinar. Following these three approaches will maximize investment and return when developing an AIA course. How does your company maximize its dollars when developing AIA education?
For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank