Best Strategies For Building Product Manufacturers To Reach Decision Makers During Pandemic
Building product manufacturers have been severely impacted by the ongoing pandemic crisis sweeping the nation. Significant challenges face manufacturers in 2020 and potentially for years to come as life and business has been upended by the ongoing crisis. How can manufacturers stay afloat and succeed during these difficult times? Let’s find out . . .
Economic Challenges For Product Manufacturers
Recently, Goldman Sachs estimated that the unemployment rate in the United States will peak at 25%, rivaling the worst period of the Great Depression. Most economists have cautioned that it will take years, perhaps even more than a decade, to get the jobless rate back near pre-crisis levels. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has said he didn’t expect the economy to return to normal potentially before the end of 2021.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has noted a steep drop in architecture billings. "A large portion of the design and construction industry remains mired in steep cutbacks as many businesses and organizations are still trying to figure out what actions make sense in this uncertain economic environment,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker.
Acquisitions, liquidations, and business restructuring will be part of the process for building product manufacturers over the next few years as the collateral damage piles up. Some multi-national corporations and American firms may use the bankruptcy process to restructure their operations, such as getting rid of debt and shedding unprofitable assets in order to emerge as a smaller, leaner, profitable companies. Economists are expecting an unprecedented tidal wave of bankruptcies, foreclosures, and companies being sold off in pieces to venture capitalists who will pay pennies on the dollar for distressed companies.
In April, the construction industry lost 975,000 jobs according to the most recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as contractors experienced less demand for their services amid the pandemic. This drop represents approximately 13% of the country's construction workforce, said Associated General Contractors of America. Retail and construction of new homes dive has dive-bombed over the past few months affecting the AEC community.
Construction Dive, one of the leading construction publishers has outlined multiple 6 ways the pandemic may affect the construction industry. They include:
- Employee health and safety
- Material delays
- Anxious clients and lenders
- Quarantines and travel bans
- Legal Issues
- Global uncertainty
How can manufacturers endure the next several months and the next few years of a depressed economy and less construction projects available? As tens of millions of people become unemployed, this can create a rolling, widening collapse. We don’t know when the current pandemic will end but we do know that life and business will change drastically and will not be the same.
Building Product Manufacturer Solutions
The best-selling author Jeffrey Fox has said that bad times are good times. When the economy is bad, opportunity presents itself to the fierce competitor. Here are a few strategies he recommends:
- Aggressively pursue underserved customers
- Go after competitor’s disgruntled, angry customers
- Purchase underpriced hard assets
- Hire new talent and sales people
Cash is king in tough times. Cash can be used for a company’s payroll, supplies, and keeping a business afloat. Companies with cash on hand during bad times have the ability to buy assets, equipment, and acquire competitors sometimes at deep discounts.
How Can You Reach Architects, Specifiers, and Decision Makers During The Pandemic?
Product manufacturers are going to be affected whether they have one product rep or a hundred reps out in the field. With many prominent AEC firms like Gensler, HOK, and others working remote, product reps will face multiple hurdles to reach decision makers and get their products specified. Here are immediate and long-term challenges to consider:
- Canceled AIA lunch and learns – How will product reps educate design professionals, maintain relationships, and increase their specification opportunities with so many AEC firms cancelling AIA lunch and learns?
- Architect Firm Visits Banned – How will product reps do their jobs if they can’t visit AEC firms due to quarantines, working remote, travel bans, and public fear? Product reps may be able to visit smaller firms and their friends, but most prominent AEC firms are clamping down to avoid infection.
- Tradeshows Postponed- The AIA national convention, USGBC GreenBuild, the Living Future Conference, Lightfair, and many other national and regional design shows have been postponed. These events provided opportunities for product reps to engage with design professionals. How will product reps reach specifiers, project teams, consultants, and other decision makers?
In a previous blog, How Will The Coronavirus Pandemic Affect Product Manufacturers and Suppliers, we discussed how building product manufacturers are trying to quickly adapt to the challenges. Building product manufacturers that never delivered webinars or product presentations to AEC firms remote are having to learn Zoom. Manufacturers with no or few online education resources have quickly found out they are losing specification opportunities by not being able to reach the key decision makers at AEC firms.
Luckily, there are solutions to help product reps during the pandemic crisis. They are innovative, comprehensive, and provide both short term and long-term options. They include:
Most of the prominent large AEC firms from New York to Chicago and Seattle to LA, are not allowing product reps to visit their offices. An easy, effective, and affordable way to reach the decision makers is an online course. Integrate video and audio into your presentation. Design professionals prefer narrated courses with video, professional photography, music and animations. Courses with video have the highest participation rates in the industry.
Webinars offer many similar benefits as online courses such as promoting your product technology, brand, benefits, etc. Educate 150-200+ design professionals in one hour. Webinars can educate a mass audience across the country in a short period of time. Unlike an online course, webinar presenters can interact with the audience, address questions that are asked throughout the presentation, and engage with decision makers during the closing Q&A.
Training Your Building Product Reps
During this downtime, while many employees are working from home and production slows down, there is an opportunity for manufacturers to maximize this time to train their staff in other ways. Credentials like LEED AP, LEED Green Associate, and WELL accreditation are all options for manufacturers. GreenCE offers free LEED Exam Prep for product reps wanting to obtain their credential.
In addition, the LEED v4.1 beta version has been released. Now is the perfect time for your team to learn about LEED v4.1 certification. The USGBC has not announced when the LEED v4.1 exam will be released. LEED v4.1 improves on building standards to address energy efficiency, water conservation, site selection, material selection, day lighting and waste reduction.
At the end of the day, people are the most important asset for a company. It is critical that manufacturers look after their employees during this crisis. There will be potentially millions of people unemployed, large scale bankruptcies, and severe changes to our daily lives. Employees need to feel connected to their co-workers, friends, family, and neighbors. People need to stay in contact through video-conferencing, phone calls, text messages, and social media. America has persevered through wars, economic downturns, and great turmoil. We can do it again.
For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank