For building product manufacturers, being noticed by specifiers is a key marketing strategy. In our recent webinar, our expert panel discussed how RIBA-accredited CPD materials provide a great platform for your business to raise brand awareness and generate leads by being front and centre of the specification cycle.
The webinar was led by Lee Jones, Head of Manufacturing Solutions at NBS, who also holds over 20 years of experience in the manufacturing industry. Guests included Joni Tyler, Head of CPD at RIBA; Kay Porter, Managing Director at Smart Marketing Works; Joanna Wilmot, Head of PR at The Think Tank and Eva Woode, Founder at Edify Content Studio.
What is brand awareness, and why does it matter?
Brand awareness is all about making customers aware of your products or services. Lee Jones reminds us that the ‘holy grail’ of brand awareness is something like Google. Any problem you have, you turn to Google to search for it; the brand is so well-recognised that it’s the go-to option.
Brand awareness covers a lot of areas, and that makes it hard to measure. Kay Porter helps define brand awareness through ‘brand recall’. Namely, is your brand the first thing someone remembers when they consider a new project? The more familiar you are to architects and specifiers, the more likely you are to be chosen. There are lots of ways to build brand awareness, but they can vary in terms of their effectiveness. Architects and specifiers have a lot of marketing material directed towards them, so standing out from the crowd and being ‘front and centre’ of their minds will help you build success. We know that 75% of all customers online indicate they are more likely to buy from a brand they know or have a purchase history with.
Building brand awareness requires a more focused approach in the construction industry, where many of the decisions that impact your product sales are happening in a very specific stage of the projects timeline.
That’s where the RIBA CPD programme and RIBA CPD Providers Network comes in...
What is a CPD, and how can it help raise awareness?
The RIBA CPD programme is a mandatory part of an architect’s membership with the RIBA. Every member must undergo training via CPD materials to continue with their RIBA status.
By joining the RIBA CPD Providers Network, manufacturers can create their own RIBA-approved CPD materials to deliver directly to a potential audience of over 44,000 registered RIBA members. This means you get to raise awareness of your brand through delivering CPD to the decision-makers at an invaluable stage of their journey, one where they are actively interested in learning about your product/ service area.
RIBA CPD materials must be educational; they aren’t an excuse to just advertise your product. Instead, producing a CPD should be a way to align your products with methodologies or practices you think will enrich a specifier’s learning journey.
CPD might take two forms: technical CPD focusing on products and their applications and broader CPD materials that educate specifiers on thought leadership issues relevant to your product. These materials will not be able to include any product marketing; instead, they discuss issues related to your product, building awareness around it so that a specifier would ideally follow-up with an enquiry once they know more about the problems/ challenges/ opportunities you’ve shown. So, for example, RIBA’s Joni Tyler mentions a tiling company creating a CPD on colour psychology or a paving company discussing issues on the urban realm and psychogeography.
As we mentioned when talking about brand awareness, this style of CPD is all about creating interest and awareness in your brand to benefit from brand recall. For example, an architect who begins a project that includes colour psychology will hopefully recall your CPD and your brand name, which will lead to an enquiry.
How to create effective CPD with thought leadership
So, you now know that brand awareness is essential, and that RIBA CPD can help you generate relevant interest… but let’s discuss how you create CPD materials.
Kay Porter, who works alongside manufacturers to help them produce good CPD materials, encourages construction manufacturers to forget about sales and focus on being perceived as experts. Your CPD should be on a subject that you feel you can add expert insight to and help educate specifiers.
Joanna Wilmot takes this further, reminding us that CPD has to stand out, capture attention and give them value. Once you’ve done the hard work in winning specifier attention on your CPD, you should then maximise the value of your CPD by taking elements out of it and repurposing it as other digital content, for example through blogs, webinars and PR pieces.
Eva Woode uses the term ‘become a trusted advisor’, which is a great way of describing quality CPD material. As a construction manufacturer, you work in a specific area, and if you can show that you have knowledge and credibility in your area, you will become the specifier’s ‘guide’ through your CPD.
The webinar mentions bathroom design company Roca, whose CPD materials focus more on the issues related to bathroom design rather than on specific products. One key CPD material for Roca is their virtual tour of the Roca London Gallery designed by Zaha Hadid Architects – which educates specifiers on the entire design process that led to the iconic double curvature of the interior. This is an excellent example of a construction manufacturer thinking outside the box to deliver a real thought-leading CPD for specifiers.
How RIBA CPD can raise brand awareness
While your RIBA CPD is must be non-commercial, it is still about raising knowledge around your product and service. Kay Porter reminds manufacturers that a CPD is all about building trust, confidence and awareness. RIBA does not state you cannot mention your brand or products; that being said, the content of the CPD is about showcasing your expertise and educating specifiers.
When brand awareness often relies on trust and authority, producing a RIBA CPD aligns your brand with the prestige and recognition of RIBA itself. By offering an accredited CPD, you will naturally find that your materials are more trusted.
Architects must undergo 35 hours and 100 points of CPD as part of their RIBA membership. RIBA-accredited CPD materials will count for double the points, so they are more likely to be chosen by architects.
Joanna Wilmot reminds us that once your RIBA CPD material is ready you should maximise the value by letting as many people as you can know about it. Think of producing a blog post, discussing it on social media, putting a banner on your website, etc. You can create wider interest to draw people to your CPD and align your brand with the authority of RIBA.
Joni Tyler talks specifically about social media, creating posts that don’t just discuss what your CPD might cover but also create posts that notify architects and specifiers of upcoming CPD dates and opportunities. Remember to tag relevant accounts on social to increase reach and use any logos you have permission to use.
As Eva Woode states, it’s important to remember that though you’re not selling your products through a CPD, you are ‘selling’ knowledge and expertise which familiarises people with your brand and builds awareness.
Why and how CPD should form part of your integrated marketing strategy
While we’ve discussed how important RIBA CPD can be for brand awareness, it’s worth stressing how valuable it is for your overall marketing strategy. As the digital world matured rapidly and digital adoption exploded through COVID-19 lockdowns, brands are growing in their ability to utilise digital techniques. Kay Porter reflects those clients who once struggled to engage with digital methods are now producing digital CPD materials and full digital strategies to them, with blogs, newsletters, etc., all part of the CPD marketing plan.
Your CPD efforts should be placed into your marketing cycle and be part of a coherent journey. You can’t, for example, offer a CPD on a topic totally different to the rest of your marketing activity. The best way to cement authority is to align the CPD itself with your social media, blog and newsletter strategy to show your expertise in a specific topic.
Creating CPD is a great way to begin your wider content strategy if you’re new to content marketing. By spending time developing a CPD, you’ll be putting content together about your field of expertise and can get inspiration to create other content formats.
In addition to your marketing strategy, your CPD should be properly integrated with sales. Kay Porter recommends briefing the sales team well so that they can understand the CPD and deliver it with confidence. As information changes, keep it up to date. Revisit the materials with your sales team to ensure information and data is correct.
How to maximise the value of your CPD
Joanna Wilmot suggests ensuring your CPD and marketing efforts are aligned with the ongoing challenges faced by specifiers. That means staying in the loop with news, following webinars on sites such as NBS and embracing new techniques and technologies that could help you reach specifiers. The Roca guide mentioned earlier is a good example of this. Initially, their CPD was a physical tour of the premises, but when COVID-19 prevented access, the Roca team updated their CPD into an online tour that widened their audience and made access far easier.
Eva reminds us that you need to always try to consider what the specifier wants to know. Of course, you can assume specifiers are already experts in their field, but even experts can add to their knowledge, especially when it’s produced by a manufacturer who is an authority in the topic.
Can you measure ROI through CPD?
One objection to CPD is that you can’t use it to ‘sell products’. However, that shouldn’t dissuade manufacturers from investing in it because, as our webinar panel shows, the value of CPD is too significant to ignore.
Winning just one specification through CPD will likely pay for the initial investment in creating your materials, but with a great CPD programme that wins an architect’s attention, you’ll increase the likelihood of being specified repeatedly on future projects. The specification isn’t the only goal to track, however. Track the number of people engaging with your CPD content. Specifiers continued to study CPD during the lockdown, and now that both scheduled in-person CPD and on-demand online CPD is available, reaching specifiers is easier than ever.
What are the benefits of having your CPD accredited by RIBA?
The RIBA CPD Providers Network is about quality, accreditation and support for the industry at large. The approval process is designed so that your CPD is as valuable as it can be to specifiers. In addition, the assessments themselves will help improve your CPD approach and final results.
Having an accredited CPD and being a member of the RIBA CPD Providers Network means you’ll have it advertised on their site to their audience. Once approved, you will benefit from the association with the world’s oldest professional body in RIBA. You’ll have support, brand recognition, and the tangible benefits of using the RIBA CPD logos in your marketing.
To have it accredited, content must be evidence-based information and education with a non-sales stance. RIBA provides clear standards that help you shape your CPD and get accreditation. If you’d like to achieve RIBA accreditation for your CPD, see our other article that details the process.
In a new world where manufacturers deliver online and in-person CPD content, creating a RIBA-accredited CPD can help you raise brand awareness with architects and specifiers. Build authority, highlight your expertise and stand out through RIBA-approved CPD. If you’d like to learn more about creating compelling CPD, see these five top tips for creating more engaging CPD materials.
Watch the full webinar here .